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Charles Barnes, Theodore Tibbitts, John Sager, Gerald Deitzer, David Bubenheim, Gus Koerner and Bruce Bugbee

Photosynthesis is fundamentally driven by photon flux rather than energy flux, but not all absorbed photons yield equal amounts of photosynthesis. Thus, two measures of photosynthetically active radiation have emerged: photosynthetic photon flux (PPF), which values all photons from 400 to 700 nm equally, and yield photon flux (YPF), which weights photons in the range from 360 to 760 nm according to plant photosynthetic response. We selected seven common radiation sources and measured YPF and PPF from each source with a spectroradiometer. We then compared these measurements with measurements from three quantum sensors designed to measure YPF, and from six quantum sensors designed to measure PPF. There were few differences among sensors within a group (usually <5%), but YPF values from sensors were consistently lower (3 % to 20 %) than YPF values calculated from spectroradiometric measurements. Quantum sensor measurements of PPF also were consistently lower than PPF values calculated from spectroradiometric measurements, but the differences were <7% for all sources, except red-light-emitting diodes. The sensors were most accurate for broad-band sources and least accurate for narrow-band sources. According to spectroradiometric measurement, YPF sensors were significantly less accurate (>9% difference) than PPF sensors under metal halide, high-pressure sodium, and low-pressure sodium lamps. Both sensor types were inaccurate (>18% error) under red-light-emitting diodes. Because both YPF and PPF sensors are imperfect integrators, and because spectroradiometers can measure photosynthetically active radiation much more accurately, researchers should consider developing calibration factors from spectroradiometric data for some specific radiation sources to improve the accuracy of integrating sensors.