Influence of Irradiance on Leaf Physiology and Plant Growth Characteristics of Rhododendron × `Pink Ruffles'

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
Authors:
P.C. AndersenUniversity of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Education Center Monticello, FL 3234 4

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J.G. NorciniUniversity of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Education Center Monticello, FL 3234 4

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G.W. KnoxUniversity of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Education Center Monticello, FL 3234 4

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Leaf physiology and plant growth of Rhododendron × `Pink Ruffles' were compared under conditions of 100% sun and under polyethylene shadecloth with specifications of 69%, 47%, and 29% light transmittance. Net CO2 assimilation (A) and stomatal conductance to water vapor (gs) were often reduced for plants in the 100% sun regime, although few differences existed among the 69%, 47%, and 29% sun treatments. Stomatal conductance was very sensitive to leaf to air vapor pressure deficits (VPD), as evidenced by an 85% increase in gs with a decrease in VPD from 3.2 to 2.2 kPa. Light response curves established for plants after 54 days of exposure to 100% and 29% sun were similar, although A was consistently higher at all levels of photosynthetic photon flux for plants in the 29% sun regime. Maximum A was ≈5 and 6 μmol·m-2·s-1 for 100% and 29% sun-grown plants, respectively; light saturation occurred at ≈ 800 μmol·m-2·s-1 Midday relative leaf water content and leaf water potential were not affected by sun regime. The plant growth index decreased with increasing light level. Leaf, stem, and root dry weights; total leaf number and dry weight; total and individual leaf area; dry weight per leaf; and leaf chlorophyll concentration were reduced in 100% sun, yet few differences existed among the 69%, 47%, and 29% sun treatments. Shoot: root ratio and specific leaf weight were proportional to light level. Plants grown in the 100% sun regime were chlorotic and dwarfed, and plants in 29% sun were not sufficiently compact. One year after transplanting to the field under 100% sun, plants of all treatments were chlorotic and failed to grow.

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