Effects of foliar sprays of a kaolin clay particle film (Surround WP) on leaf temperature (Tlf), net gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence and water relations of sun-exposed leaves on field-grown grapefruit trees (Citrus paradisi L.) were studied during Summer and Fall 2001. Trees were sprayed twice a week for 3 weeks with aqueous suspensions of kaolin (Surround) at 60 g·L-1. Physiological effects of kaolin application were most prominent around midday on warm sunny days than in mornings, evenings or cloudy days. Kaolin sprays increased leaf whiteness (62%), reduced midday leaf temperature (Tlf; ≈3 °C) and leaf to air vapor pressure differences (VPD; ≈20%) compared to water-sprayed control leaves. Midday reductions in Tlf and VPD were accompanied by increased stomatal conductance (gs) and net CO2 assimilation rates (ACO2) of kaolin sprayed leaves, suggesting that gs might have limited ACO2 in water-sprayed control leaves. Midday photoinhibition of photosynthesis was 30% lower in kaolin-sprayed leaves than in control leaves. Midday water use efficiency (WUE) of kaolin-sprayed leaves was 25% higher than that of control leaves. However, leaf transpiration and whole-tree water use were not affected by kaolin film sprays. Increased WUE was therefore, due to higher ACO2. Leaf intercellular CO2 partial pressures (Ci) were similar in control and kaolin-sprayed leaves indicating that stomatal conductance was not the major cause of reduced ACO2. These results demonstrate that kaolin sprays could potentially increase grapefruit leaf carbon uptake efficiency under high radiation and temperature stress.
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