Growth Environment and Leaf Anatomy Affect Nondestructive Estimates of Chlorophyll and Nitrogen in Citrus sp. Leaves

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Correlations between extractable leaf chlorophyll (Chl) concentration and portable, nondestructive leaf “greenness” meter readings imply that such estimates can be used as surrogate measurements of leaf nitrogen (N) status. However, few studies have actually found a direct relationship between Chl meter readings and leaf N. We evaluated the utility of two handheld transmittance-based Chl content meters (SPAD-502, Minolta Corp. and CCM-200, Opti-Sciences) and one reflectance-based meter (Observer, Spectrum Technologies), in estimating Chl and N concentrations in intact leaves of several citrus cultivars. Total Chl determined analytically, correlated well with nondestructive Chl meter readings (r2: 0.72 to 0.97; P < 0.0001), but regression models differed among cultivars using the same meter and also among meters for a given cultivar. The relationships were generally more linear and stronger at low Chl concentrations (<0.5 mmol·m-2) than at higher Chl concentrations, reflecting increased variability in Chl meter readings with increasing leaf Chl. Significant relationships between Chl meter readings and measured leaf N concentrations were also found in all the cultivars tested (r2: 0.23 to 0.69; P < 0.01), but the data were more variable than those for Chl. Field-grown leaves were significantly thicker and had higher Chl meter readings than greenhouse-grown leaves of similar Chl or N concentrations. The results suggest that nondestructive Chl content meters can overestimate Chl and N in thicker leaves and/or leaves with high Chl concentrations. A single prediction equation derived from a wide range of Chl or N concentrations could be applicable across the range of citrus cultivars when grown in the same environment. Potential limitations associated with leaf thickness as influenced by environmental factors may necessitate the development of more specific calibration equations.

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