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  • Author or Editor: Francisco M. del Amor x
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An experiment was carried out to assess the influence of three types of substrate on the growth and yield of sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Plants were grown during three cycles (2005, 2006, and 2007) in coconut coir dust (CC), urea formaldehyde foam (UF), and rice hull (RH) amended with polyacrylamide gel (water absorber). Growth parameters, dry weight (DW) of vegetative and generative parts, intercepted radiation, water uptake, total fruit yield, and quality parameters were analyzed. Plant height, total leaf fresh weight, and stem diameter were higher in CC and lower for the RH substrate, which also showed lower yields and fruit quality. Accumulated dry matter was modeled according to water uptake and substrate using a linear function. Upper and lower limits in water use efficiency, between 2.5 and 5.7 g DW/L, are linked to the irrigation strategies and crop seasons. Light use efficiency (LUE) under different conditions was also determined to predict plant dry matter and a unique value was obtained for the three substrates (LUE = 0.91 g/MJ). Three different irrigation strategies were proposed for each substrate as a function of intercepted radiation and defining an α coefficient (expressed in mm/m2/MJ) that coupled crop and climate components. These crop characterization and prediction tools could help to optimize plant growth and yield for environmentally friendly substrates.

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Enrichment with CO2 and a commercial mix of plant growth regulators were tested to improve the plant quality and survival of pregerminated cherry tree seedlings. Pregerminated seeds were transferred from a cold chamber to a climatic chamber where the CO2 was set at 800 µmol·mol−1 CO2 or at the ambient CO2 concentration. Also, half of the plants were sprayed with the mix of plant growth regulators and disposed randomly. The experiment lasted 18 days and physiological measurements, such as plant physiological status and growth, number of leaves, net CO2 assimilation (ACO2), internal CO2, stomatal conductance, and transpiration, were taken every 4 days. Also, at the end of the experiment, other parameters—such as total leaf area, photosynthetic pigments, soluble sugars, and starch—were recorded or quantified. During the experiment, plants cultured under CO2 enrichment exhibited a rapid increase in their photosynthetic rates, height, and leaf number; the commercial mix also increased plant height but inhibited leaf expansion and growth. At the end of the experiment, the amounts of starch and soluble sugars had increased in the plants grown under elevated CO2, compared with those plants grown in control conditions or with the commercial mix. Thus, culture at elevated CO2 achieved higher percentages of plant survival and of plants in active growth. We suggest that CO2 plays an important role—by increasing ACO2, water use efficiency, soluble sugars, and starch—which results in plants that are physiologically more prepared for transfer to the field.

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