Long-term, whole-crop CO2 exchange measurements can be used to study factors affecting crop growth. These factors include daily carbon gain, cumulative carbon gain, and carbon use efficiency, which cannot be determined from short-term measurements. We describe a system that measures semicontinuously crop CO2 exchange in 10 chambers over a period of weeks or months. Exchange of CO2 in every chamber can be measured at 5 min intervals. The system was designed to be placed inside a growth chamber, with additional environmental control provided by the individual gas exchange chambers. The system was calibrated by generating CO2 from NaHCO3 inside the chambers, which indicated that accuracy of the measurements was good (102% and 98% recovery for two separate photosynthesis systems). Since the systems measure net photosynthesis (Pnet, positive) and dark respiration (Rdark, negative), the data can be used to estimate gross photosynthesis, daily carbon gain, cumulative carbon gain, and carbon use efficiency. Continuous whole-crop measurements are a valuable tool that complements leaf photosynthesis measurements. Multiple chambers allow for replication and comparison among several environmental or cultural treatments that may affect crop growth. Example data from a 2 week study with petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) are presented to illustrate some of the capabilities of this system.
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