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Marc W. van Iersel*

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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Marc W. van Iersel

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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Marc W. van Iersel

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.

Open access

Claudia Elkins and Marc W. van Iersel

Seedlings may be grown indoors where environmental conditions can be precisely controlled to ensure consistent and reliable production. The optimal spectrum for production under sole-source lighting is currently unknown. Far-red light (λ = 700–800 nm) typically is not a significant part of the spectrum of light-emitting diode (LED) grow lights. However, far-red light is photosynthetically active and can enhance leaf elongation, which may result in larger leaves and increased light interception. We hypothesized that adding far-red light to sole-source lighting would increase the growth of ‘Dalmatian Peach’ foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) seedlings grown under white LED lights, potentially shortening production times. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of far-red light intensities, ranging from 4.0 to 68.8 µmol·m−2·s−1, on the growth and morphology of foxglove seedlings. Foxglove seedlings were grown in a growth chamber with a photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) of 186 ± 6.4 μmol·m−2·s−1 and supplemental far-red light intensities ranging from 4.0 to 68.8 µmol·m−2·s−1. As far-red light increased, shoot dry weight, root dry weight, plant height, and plant height/number of leaves increased by 38% (P = 0.004), 20% (P = 0.029), 38% (P = 0.025), and 34% (P = 0.024), respectively, while root weight fraction decreased 16% (P = 0.034). Although we expected supplemental far-red light to induce leaf and/or stem expansion, specific leaf area and compactness (two measures of morphology) were unaffected. Because a 37% increase in total photon flux density (PPFD plus far-red light) resulted in a 34.5% increase in total plant dry weight, the increased growth likely was due to increased photosynthesis rather than a shade-acclimation response. The growth response was linear across the 4.0 to 68.8 µmol·m−2·s−1 range of far-fed light tested, so we were unable to determine a saturating far-red photon flux density.

Open access

Claudia Elkins and Marc W. van Iersel

Supplemental light can increase growth and accelerate production of greenhouse crops, but it can be expensive if not provided in a way that promotes efficient use of the light. Dimmable light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures have the potential to reduce lighting costs because the output can be precisely controlled to meet crop needs. Because light is used more efficiently to drive photosynthesis at lower photosynthetic photon flux densities (PPFDs), we hypothesized that providing Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ seedlings with the same daily light integral (DLI), spread out over a longer photoperiod and at lower PPFDs, should improve growth. A DLI of 12 mol·m−2·d−1 was provided in a greenhouse over 12, 15, 18, or 21-hour photoperiods from a combination of sunlight and supplemental light from LEDs, using adaptive lighting control. Plants grown without supplemental light had an ≈12-hour photoperiod and received an average DLI of 5 mol·m−2·d−1, ≈58% less light than the four lighting treatments. Lengthening the photoperiod from 12 to 21 hours increased shoot dry mass (30%), root dry mass (24%), plant height (14%), leaf area (16%), and chlorophyll content index (48%), and decreased specific leaf area (26%). There was no significant effect of photoperiod on root mass fraction or compactness. Growth parameters of plants without supplemental light were 26% to 90% smaller compared with those in the 12-hour photoperiod treatment. Treatment effects on canopy size, seen as early as 2 weeks into the study, were correlated with final shoot dry mass. Longer photoperiods did not induce a shade-avoidance response, based on specific leaf area and compactness data. The 24% increase in root dry mass for the plants in the 21-hour photoperiod suggests that cropping cycles can be shortened by 1 to 2 weeks compared with the 12-hour photoperiod. This could result in more crop turns per year and increased profits. In addition, fewer lights would be needed for adequate growth, reducing the capital cost of the lighting system.

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M. Kate Lee and Marc W. van Iersel

As a result of the decreasing availability of high-quality irrigation water, salinity tolerance of greenhouse crops is of increasing importance. Saline irrigation water can have many negative effects on plants, but also has the potential to act as a growth regulator because of its ability to reduce plant height. To determine the effects of NaCl in the irrigation water on the growth, physiology, and nutrient uptake of chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum ×morifolium Ramat.), plants were watered with solutions with different NaCl concentrations (0, 1, 3, 6, or 9 g·L−1). Plants receiving 9 g·L−1 NaCl had a 76% reduction in shoot dry weight, a 90% reduction in stomatal conductance (g S), and a 4-day delay in flowering compared with control plants. Chrysanthemums receiving 1 g·L−1 NaCl had a 4-cm reduction in height with only a small reduction in shoot dry weight. Stomatal conductance and transpiration were reduced by more than 60% by NaCl concentrations of 1 g·L−1 as compared with control plants. The combination of a small reduction in dry weight and a large decrease in transpiration resulted in increased water use efficiency when plants received 1 g·L−1 NaCl. Concentrations of 3 g·L−1 NaCl or higher resulted in poor-quality plants either as a result of wilting of the leaves (3 g·L−1) or severely stunted plants (6 and 9 g·L−1). Our findings indicate that chrysanthemums can be grown successfully with 1 g·L−1 NaCl in the irrigation water without negative impacts on plant quality. This has important implications for the greenhouse industry as the availability of nonsaline water decreases. Saline water may be more readily available and can have the added benefit of reduced plant height, which is an important quality characteristic for floriculture crops.

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Geoffrey M. Weaver and Marc W. van Iersel

Physiological antitranspirants can reduce financial risks to growers by temporarily preventing drought stress, improving product quality, and extending the shelf life of ornamental bedding plants. Exogenous abscisic acid (ABA) is an effective antitranspirant that induces stomatal closure in a rate-dependent manner, reducing transpirational water loss in many species. However, it may also cause chlorosis, which reduces product quality. Synthetic ABA analogs have similar effects on stomatal conductance (g S) but are not known to induce chlorosis. We studied the effects of ABA and its analog 8′ acetylene ABA methyl-ester (PBI 429) on g S and net photosynthesis (Pn) in pansies (Viola ×wittrockiana), compared the efficacy and longevity of each compound, and quantified the resulting chlorosis. Plants were treated with spray solutions of ABA (0 to 2000 mg·L−1) and PBI 429 (0 to 200 mg·L−1) and irrigated daily. Gas exchange and leaf chlorophyll measurements were made twice weekly for 2 weeks. Additional measurements were taken once or twice weekly through 47 days. Abscisic acid reduced leaf chlorophyll content and Pn in a rate-dependent manner for 14 days after application but reduced g S for only 11 days, whereas PBI 429 reduced Pn and g S similarly for 7 days and did not reduce leaf chlorophyll content. Reductions in g S and Pn were greatest on the first day after treatment for both compounds. Our results demonstrate that ABA is more effective than PBI 429 at 100 and 200 mg·L−1, but also causes chlorosis, whereas PBI 429 is an effective antitranspirant without this phytotoxic effect.

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Svoboda V. Pennisi and Marc W. van Iersel

Interiorscape plants have many documented benefits, but their potential for carbon sequestration is not clear. This study was undertaken to quantify the amount of carbon assimilation under growth chamber conditions designed to mimic the photosynthetic photon flux (PPF) levels and temperatures of typical indoor environments and to quantify the amount of carbon assimilation in situ in a representative interiorscape composed of a variety of plant species and sizes. Quantitative data were obtained in 1) growth chambers with a typical range of PPF levels encountered indoors (≈10, 20, and 30 μmol·m−2·s−1); and 2) in situ conditions in an interiorscape. Under growth chamber conditions, most species exhibited positive dry mass accumulation and carbon sequestration but Sanseveria and Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ exhibited consistent dry mass loss throughout the 10 weeks under simulated conditions. Carbon content was lower in herbaceous species (e.g., Scindapsus aureus, 38% of dry mass) compared with woody ones (e.g., Ficus benjamina, 43%). PPF-saturated net photosynthetic rates of plants were low, ranging from 3.4 to 7.0 μmol·m−2·s−1, whereas their light compensation points ranged from 8 to 78 μmol·m−2·s−1. In situ, plants exhibited varying dry mass gain, largely dependent on size. In general, a large plant and/or species with a higher amount of woody tissue in their above- or belowground organs (e.g., 4.6 m high arboreal plant) sequestered more carbon than small and/or herbaceous species. This study is the first to provide quantitative data of carbon sequestration in interiorscape environments.

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Manuel G. Astacio and Marc W. van Iersel

Previous work has shown that exogenous abscisic acid (ABA) applications can reduce transpiration, delay wilting, and thereby extend the shelf life of unwatered plants. Paradoxically, we have seen that drenches with concentrated ABA solutions may actually induce wilting. These wilting symptoms occur despite the presence of ample water in the substrate, suggesting that ABA may interfere with the ability of roots to take up water. Our objective was to develop a better understanding of this wilting effect using tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) as a model. In the first study, ABA drenches (125–2000 mg·L−1) reduced transpiration and water use compared with the control plants, yet the relative water content (RWC) of the leaves of ABA-treated plants was lower than that of control plants at 24 h after the ABA drench. Control plants had a leaf RWC of 97%, whereas plants treated ABA had a RWC of 57% to 62%. ABA concentrations of 500 mg·L−1 or higher caused the plants to wilt within 24 h despite the presence of ample water in the substrate. Leaf ABA concentrations 24 h after the ABA application ranged from 2.6 (control) to 62.6 nmol·g−1 fresh weight (FW) in the 2000-mg·L−1 ABA treatment, indicating effective transport of ABA from the roots to the leaves. The reduced leaf RWC suggests that ABA drenches are limiting water transport through the roots to the leaves. The effects of ABA on the hydraulic conductance of the roots and stems of tomatoes were quantified to determine if ABA drenches limit water transport through the roots. The cumulative volume of water conducted by the root systems during a 4-day period ranged from 36.7 mL in the control treatments to 8.1 mL in roots systems drenched with 1000 mg·L−1 ABA, a reduction of 78%. When the conductance study was repeated using decapitated roots and excised stems, root water flux was again reduced by ABA, but water flux through internodal stem sections did not show an ABA effect. Results suggest that ABA-induced wilting is caused by a reduction in root conductance and we hypothesize that ABA affects aquaporins in the roots, limiting water uptake.

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Marc W. van Iersel and Bruce Bugbee

Benzimidazoles are effective and widely used fungicides, but they may be phytotoxic. We studied the effects of a single drench application of six benzimidazoles and one acetanilide fungicide on photosynthetic gas exchange, growth, development, and nutrient levels of four species of bedding plants in twenty growth-chamber and four greenhouse studies. Daily carbon gain and carbon-use efficiency were calculated from continuous crop gas-exchange measurements in the growth chambers. The maximum labeled rate of Benlate DF caused a 7- to 10-day decrease in net photosynthesis and daily carbon gain in transplants of all species. It also caused pronounced interveinal chlorosis and a 2- to 3-day delay in flowering. Growth of Benlate DF-treated plants was reduced more at high (90%) than at low (60% to 80%) relative humidity. Benlate DF had severe effects on 2-week-old petunia (Petunia ×hybrida) seedlings in plug flats, reducing photosynthesis 25% to 57%. Cleary's 3336 WP decreased photosynthesis in some trials. Benlate DF reduced photosynthesis within 24 hours, but 3336 WP effects did not become apparent until 1 week after the treatment. This suggests different modes of inhibition. 3336 WP also caused leaf-tip and marginal chlorosis in impatiens (Impatiens wallerana). Mertect 340-F was extremely phytotoxic but is not labeled for drench applications (it was included because of its chemical similarity to other benzimidazoles). The only benzimidazole fungicide that did not reduce photosynthesis was Derosal, but it caused slight interveinal chlorosis in some studies with petunia. Benlate DF and Derosal decreased leaf Ca levels. Subdue (or metalaxyl), an acetanilide fungicide, did not affect photosynthesis or cause any visual symptoms. Our results indicate that some benzimidazole fungicides can cause growth reductions and visual damage in bedding plants.