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Dario Mantovani, Adolfo Rosati and Domenico Perrone

The wild asparagus species Asparagus acutifolius L. is widespread in Mediterranean and subtropical environments, where its spears are consumed regularly. The species is known to have ecophysiologic plasticity, however there is no literature on this subject. This work aimed at assessing the photosynthetic characteristics of this wild species of asparagus, grown under full light (FL) and partial (i.e., about 40%) light (PL) conditions, and evaluating its ecophysiologic response to drought and temperature stress. The photosynthetic response to light of spears and of new cladodes (NC; current year) and old cladodes (OC; previous year) was measured using an infrared gas analyzer coupled with a climatized cuvette chamber. Cladodes net photosynthesis at high irradiance was also measured at varying air temperatures and decreasing soil water availability. Results indicate that developing spears were photosynthetically active with no difference between FL and PL treatments. Photosynthetic rates did not differ between NCs and OCs and were greater for FL cladodes, except at low irradiance. Well-watered plants were photosynthetically active from 0 to 45 °C, with a maximum photosynthetic rate of up to 9 µmol·m–2·s–1 at 30 °C and a decrease of about 60% at 45 °C. The species also demonstrated high tolerance to drought, with positive net photosynthesis even at predawn leaf water potential values of –2.4 MPa. Showing great ecophysiologic plasticity, this wild asparagus could be an interesting species in areas were conventional crop species are not profitable economically, or as an intercrop in agroforestry systems.