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  • Author or Editor: Marc W van Iersel x
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Literature reports on the Q10 for respiration vary widely, both within and among species. Plant size and metabolic activity may be responsible for some of this variation. To test this, respiration of whole lettuce plants was measured at temperatures ranging from 6 to 31 °C during a 24-h period. Subsequently, plant growth rate (in moles of carbon per day) was determined by measuring the CO2 exchange rate of the same plants during a 24-h period. Environmental conditions during this 24-h period resembled those that the plants were exposed to in the greenhouse. The measured growth rate was then used to estimate the relative growth rate (RGR) of the plants. The respiratory Q10 ranged from 1.4 for small plants to 1.75 for large plants. The increase in Q10 with increasing plant size was highly significant, as was the decrease in Q10 with increasing RGR. However, growth rate had little or no effect on the respiratory Q10. One possible explanation for these findings is that the Q10 depends on the ratio of growth to maintenance respiration (which is directly related to RGR). The growth respiration coefficient generally is considered to be temperature-insensitive, while the maintenance respiration coefficient normally increases with increasing temperature. Based on this concept, the Q10 for the maintenance respiration coefficient can be estimated as the estimated Q10 at a RGR of zero (i.e. no growth and thus no growth respiration), which was 1.65 in this experiment. Although the concept of dividing respiration into growth and maintenance fractions remains controversial, it is useful for explaining changes in respiratory Q10 during plant development.

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Do you accurately measure and report the growing conditions of your controlled environment experiments? Conditions in controlled environment plant growth rooms and chambers should be reported in detail. This is important to allow replication of experiments on plants, to compare results among facilities, and to avoid artefacts due to uncontrolled variables. The International Committee for Controlled Environment Guidelines, with representatives from the U.K. Controlled Environment Users' Group, the North American Committee on Controlled Environment Technology and Use (NCR-101), and Australasian Controlled Environment Working Group (ACEWG), has developed guidlines to report environmental conditions in controlled environment experiments. These guidelines include measurements of light, temperature, humidity, CO2, air speed, and fertility. A brochure with these guidelines and a sample paragraph on how to include this information in a manuscript will be available.

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Bedding plants are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, both during production and in the landscape. This research compared the effect of short-term temperature changes on the CO2 exchange rates of four popular bedding plants species. Net photosynthesis (Pnet) and dark respiration (Rdark) of geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bail.), marigold (Tagetes patula L.), pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams.), and petunia (Petunia ×hybrida Hort. Vilm.-Andr.) were measured at temperatures ranging from 8 to 38 °C (for Pnet) and 6 to 36 °C (for Rdark). Net photosynthesis of all species was maximal at 14 to 15 °C, while Rdark of all four species increased exponentially with increasing temperature. Gross photosynthesis (Pgross) was estimated as the sum of Pnet and Rdark, and was greater for petunia than for the other three species. Gross photosynthesis was less sensitive to temperature than either Pnet or Rdark, suggesting that temperature effects on Pnet were caused mainly by increased respiration at higher temperatures. Gas exchange-temperature response curves were not useful in determining the heat tolerance of these species. There were significant differences among species in the estimated Rdark at 0 °C and the Q10 for Rdark. Differences in the Q10 for Rdark were related to growth rate and plant size. Large plants had a greater Q10 for Rdark, apparently because these plants had a higher ratio of maintenance to growth respiration than small plants. The Q10 of the maintenance respiration coefficient was estimated from the correlation between the Q10 and relative growth rate, and was found to be 2.5 to 2.6.

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The availability of good quality irrigation water is decreasing worldwide, and salinity is an increasingly important agricultural problem. To determine whether detrimental effects of NaCl can be minimized by additional Ca2+, tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) `Super-sweet 100' was grown hydroponically. The basic nutrient solution contained 11.9 mM NO - 3 and 3.2 mM Ca 2+. We added 14.1, 44.4 and 70.4 mM of NaCl to this solution to determine the effect of NaCl and there were treatments with 70 mM NaCl and 10 or 20 mM Ca2+ to look at Ca2+ effects. We also included three treatments in which all nutrient concentrations were increased (without NaCl) to distinguish between osmotic and ion-specific effects. 70.4 mM NaCl reduced leaf photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, gas phase conductance for CO2 diffusion, carboxylation efficiency, and dark-adapted quantum yield of photosystem II. The inclusion of 20 mM Ca2+ prevented these effects of NaCl. NaCl also decreased leaf size and elongation rate, but this could not be prevented by adding extra Ca2+ to the nutrient solution; these were caused by osmotic effects, rather than Na+ specifically. Likewise, plant dry mass was negatively correlated with solution EC, suggesting an osmotic effect. Our results indicate that leaf area development, which was inhibited by high EC, is more important for dry matter accumulation than leaf photosynthesis, which was inhibited by high Na+. Adding 20 mM Ca2+ to the 70 mM NaCl solution reduced the Na+ concentration in the leaf from 79 to 24 mg·g-1, which may explain why Ca2+ alleviates Na+ toxicity.

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Efficient water use in nurseries is increasingly important. In recent years, new soil moisture sensors (ECH2O probes) have become available, making it possible to monitor the moisture content of the growing medium in containers. One piece of information that is lacking for fully-automated irrigation systems is how much water actually needs to be present in the growing medium to prevent detrimental effects of drought on plants. We determined the effect of substrate moisture on photosynthesis and plant water relations of hydrangea and abelia. Growth rates of these species were measured during two subsequent drying cycles to determine how drought affects the growth rate of these species. Whole-plant photosynthesis, an indicator of growth rate, of both species remained stable as the volumetric moisture content of the substrate dropped from 25% to 15%, with pronounced decreases in photosynthesis at lower substrate moisture levels. Abelias and hydrangeas wilted when the substrate moisture level dropped to 6.3% and 8.3%, respectively. At wilting, abelias had lower leaf water potential (–3.7 MPa) than hydrangeas (–1.8 MPa). After the plants were watered at the end of the first drying cycle, the photosynthesis of the plants did not recover to pre-stress rates, indicating that the drought stress caused a long-term reduction in photosynthesis. Despite the more severe drought stress in the abelias (both a lower substrate water content and lower water potential at wilting), abelias recovered better from drought than hydrangeas. After the plants were watered at the end of the first drying cycle, the photosynthetic rate of abelias recovered to ≈70%, while the photosynthetic rate of the hydrangeas recovered to only 62% of the pre-stress rate.

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Supplemental lighting in greenhouses is often needed for year-round production of high-quality crops. However, the electricity needed for supplemental lighting can account for a substantial part of overall production costs. Our objective was to develop more efficient control methods for supplemental lighting, taking advantage of the dimmability of light-emitting diode (LED) grow lights. We compared 14 hours per day of full power supplemental LED lighting to two other treatments: 1) turning the LEDs on, at full power, only when the ambient photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) dropped below a specific threshold, and 2) adjusting the duty cycle of the LEDs so that the LED lights provided only enough supplemental PPF to reach a preset threshold PPF. This threshold PPF was adjusted daily from 50 to 250 μmol·m−2·s−1. Turning the LED lights on at full power and off based on a PPF threshold was not practical since this at times resulted in the lights going on and off frequently. Adjusting the duty cycle of the LED lights based on PPF measurements underneath the light bar provided excellent control of PPF, with 5-minute averages typically being within 0.2 μmol·m−2·s−1 of the threshold PPF. Continuously adjusting the duty cycle of the LED lights reduced electricity use by 20% to 92%, depending on the PPF threshold and daily light integral (DLI) from sunlight. Simulations based on net photosynthesis (An) − PPF response curves indicated that there are large differences among species in how efficiently supplemental PPF stimulates An. When there is little or no sunlight, An of Heuchera americana is expected to increase more than that of Campanula portenschlagiana when a low level of supplemental light is provided. Conversely, when ambient PPF >200 μmol·m−2·s−1, supplemental lighting will have little impact on An of H. americana, but can still results in significant increases in An of C. portenschlagiana (1.7 to 6.1 μmol·m−2·s−1 as supplemental PPF increases from 50 to 250 μmol·m−2·s−1). Adjusting the duty cycle of the LEDs based on PPF levels assures that supplemental light is provided when plants can use that supplemental light most efficiently. Implementing automated duty cycle control of LED grow lights is simple and low cost. This approach can increase the cost effectiveness of supplemental lighting, because of the associated energy savings.

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The availability of good-quality irrigation water is decreasing worldwide, and salinity is an increasingly important agricultural problem. To determine whether detrimental effects of NaCl on plant growth and leaf physiology can be minimized by additional Ca2+ supply, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) ‘Supersweet 100’ was grown hydroponically. The basic nutrient solution contained 11.1 mm NO3 and 2.8 mm Ca2+. Three levels of NaCl (14.1, 44.4, and 70.4 mm) were added to the basic solution to determine Na+ effects on leaf physiology and growth. To determine if Ca2+ could alleviate the toxic effects of Na+, treatments with 10 or 20 mm Ca2+ combined with 44.4 or 70 mm NaCl were included as well. To distinguish between osmotic and ion-specific effects, there were three treatments in which all nutrient concentrations were increased (without NaCl) to obtain electrical conductivity (EC) levels similar to those of the NaCl treatments. Nutrient solutions with 70.4 mm NaCl reduced leaf photosynthesis, chlorophyll content, gas-phase conductance, carboxylation efficiency, and dark-adapted quantum yield. Inclusion of 20 mm Ca2+ prevented these effects of NaCl. NaCl also decreased leaf length and elongation rate. This could not be prevented by adding extra Ca2+ to the solution; reductions in leaf elongation were due to osmotic effects rather than to Na+ specifically. Likewise, plant dry weight was negatively correlated with solution EC, suggesting an osmotic effect. Leaf area development apparently was more important for dry matter accumulation than leaf photosynthesis. Adding 20 mm Ca2+ to the 70 mm NaCl solution reduced the Na+ concentration in the leaf from 79 to 24 mg·g−1.

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Photosynthetic responses to light are dependent on light intensity, vary among species, and can be affected by acclimation to different light environments (e.g., light intensity, spectrum, and photoperiod). Understanding how these factors affect photochemistry is important for improving supplemental lighting efficiency in controlled-environment agriculture. We used chlorophyll fluorescence to determine photochemical light response curves of three horticultural crops with contrasting light requirements [sweetpotato (Ipomea batatas), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and pothos (Epipremnum aureum)]. We also quantified how these responses were affected by acclimation to three shading treatments-full sun, 44% shade, and 75% shade. The quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII), a measure of photochemical efficiency, decreased exponentially with increasing photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) in all three species. By contrast, linear electron transport rate (ETR) increased asymptotically with increasing PPF. Within each shading level, the high-light-adapted species sweetpotato used high light more efficiently for electron transport than light-intermediate lettuce and shade-tolerant pothos. Within a species, plants acclimated to high light (full sun) tended to have higher ΦPSII and ETR than those acclimated to low light (44% or 75% shade). Nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ) (an indicator of the amount of absorbed light energy that is dissipated as heat) was upregulated with increasing PPF; faster upregulation was observed in pothos as well as in plants grown under 75% shade. Our results have implications for supplemental lighting: supplemental light is used more efficiently and results in a greater increase in ETR when provided at low ambient PPF. In addition, high-light-adapted crops and crops grown under relatively high ambient light can use supplemental light more efficiently than low-light-adapted crops or those grown under low ambient light.

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Supplemental lighting can improve the growth of greenhouse crops, but the electricity required for supplemental lighting can be a significant expense for greenhouse growers. Lighting control strategies that use the dimmability of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have the potential to decrease this cost. In our experiments, we tested the hypothesis that providing ‘Little Gem’ lettuce (Lactuca sativa) plants with the same daily amount of light, spread out over a longer photoperiod and at lower average photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFDs), would improve growth because light is used more efficiently to drive photosynthesis at lower PPFDs. We conducted two greenhouse experiments wherein supplemental light was provided to reach a minimum daily light integral (DLI) of 17 mol·m−2·d−1 with a 12, 15, 18, or 21-hour photoperiod using adaptive lighting control of LED lights. As the photoperiod for supplemental lighting was increased and supplemental light was provided at lower average PPFDs, plant dry weight increased. Conversion efficiency, the estimated increase in dry weight per Joule expended on supplemental lighting, increased as the photoperiod was extended from 12 to 21 hours. Leaf size and chlorophyll content index increased with longer photoperiods. The number of plants with symptoms of tipburn, including apical and marginal necrosis, also increased as the photoperiod was extended. These results demonstrate that adaptive lighting control can be used to increase the growth of ‘Little Gem’ lettuce and the energy use efficiency of supplemental lighting by providing supplemental light at relatively low PPFDs.

Open Access

Plant light use efficiency decreases as light intensity is increased, and a better understanding of crop-specific light responses can contribute to the development of more energy-efficient supplemental lighting control strategies for greenhouses. In this study, diurnal chlorophyll fluorescence monitoring was used to characterize the photochemical responses of ‘Green Towers’ lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) to photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) and daily light integral (DLI) in a greenhouse during a production cycle. Plants were monitored continuously for 35 days, with chlorophyll fluorescence measurements collected once every 15 minutes. Quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) decreased exponentially with PPFD, whereas electron transport rate (ETR) increased asymptotically to 121 µmol·m–2·s–1. Daily photochemical integral (DPI) is defined as the integral of ETR over a 24-hour period; DPI increased asymptotically to 3.29 mol·m–2·d–1 with increasing DLI. No effects of plant age or prior day’s DLI and a negligible effect of PPFDs 15 or 30 minutes before measurements within days were observed. Simulations were conducted using the regression equation of ETR as a function of PPFD {ETR = 121[1 – exp(–0.00277PPFD)]} to illustrate methods of increasing photochemical light use efficiency for improved supplemental lighting control strategies. For a given DLI, DPI can be increased by providing light at lower PPFDs for a longer period of time, and can be maximized by providing light with a uniform PPFD throughout the entire photoperiod. Similarly, the DLI required to achieve a given DPI is reduced using these same methods.

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