Air Temperature Affects Biomass and Carotenoid Pigment Accumulation in Kale and Spinach Grown in a Controlled Environment

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  • 1 Plant Sciences Department, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • | 2 Department of Plant Biology, The University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824
  • | 3 Department of Animal and Nutritional Sciences, The University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824

Crop plants are adversely affected by a variety of environmental factors, with air temperature being one of the most influential. Plants have developed a number of methods in the adaptation to air temperature variations. However, there is limited research to determine what impact air temperature has on the production of secondary plant compounds, such as carotenoid pigments. Kale (Brassica oleracea L.) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) have high concentrations of lutein and β-carotene carotenoids. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of different growing air temperatures on plant biomass production and the accumulation of elemental nutrients, lutein, β-carotene, and chlorophyll pigments in the leaves of kale and spinach. Plants were grown in nutrient solutions in growth chambers at air temperatures of 15, 20, 25, and 30 °C for `Winterbor' kale and 10, 15, 20, and 25 °C for `Melody' spinach. Maximum tissue lutein and β-carotene concentration occurred at 30 °C for kale and 10 °C for spinach. Highest carotenoid accumulations were 16.1 and 11.2 mg/100 g fresh mass for lutein and 13.0 and 10.9 mg/100 g fresh mass for β-carotene for the kale and spinach, respectively. Lutein and β-carotene concentration increased linearly with increasing air temperatures for kale, but the same pigments showed a linear decrease in concentration for increasing air temperatures for spinach. Quantifying the effects of air temperature on carotenoid accumulation in kale and spinach, expressed on a fresh mass basis, is important for growers producing these crops for fresh markets.

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