Bench-grafted `Fuji' apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] trees on Malling 26 (M.26) rootstocks were fertigated for 6 weeks with N concentrations ranging from 0 to 20 mm. These treatments produced levels of leaf N ranging from 0.9 to 4.3 g·m-2. Over this range, leaf absorptance increased curvilinearly from 74.8% to 92.5%. The light saturation point for CO2 assimilation expressed on the basis of absorbed light increased linearly at first with increasing leaf N, then reached a plateau at a leaf N content of ≈3 g·m-2. Under high light conditions (photosynthetic photon flux of 1500 μmol·m-2·s-1), the amount of absorbed light in excess of that required to saturate CO2 assimilation decreased with increasing leaf N. Chlorophyll fluorescence measurements revealed that the maximum photosystem II (PSII) efficiency of dark-adapted leaves was relatively constant over the leaf N range, except for a slight decrease at the lower end. As leaf N increased, nonphotochemical quenching declined under high light, and there was an increase in the efficiency with which the absorbed photons were delivered to open PSII centers. The photochemical quenching coefficient remained high except for a decrease at the lower end of the leaf N range. Actual PSII efficiency increased curvilinearly with increasing leaf N, and was highly correlated with light-saturated CO2 assimilation. The fraction of absorbed light potentially going into singlet oxygen formation was estimated to be ≈10%, regardless of leaf N status. It was concluded that there was more excess absorbed light in low N leaves than in high N leaves under high light conditions. Nonphotochemical quenching was enhanced with decreasing leaf N to reduce both the PSII efficiency and the probability of damage from photooxidation by excess absorbed light.
Corresponding author. Current address: Department of Horticulture, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; e-mail: LC89@Cornell.edu.