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  • Author or Editor: Myung-Min Oh x
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Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) of short wavelength ranges are being developed as light sources in closed-type plant production systems. Among the various wavelengths, red and blue lights are known to be effective for enhancing plant photosynthesis. In this study, we determined the effects of blue and red LED ratios on leaf shape, plant growth, and the accumulation of antioxidant phenolic compounds of a red leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. ‘Sunmang’) and a green leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. ‘Grand Rapid TBR’). Lettuce seedlings grown under normal growth conditions (20 °C, fluorescent lamp + high-pressure sodium lamp 177 ± 5 μmol·m−2·s−1, 12-hour photoperiod) for 18 days were transferred into growth chambers that were set at 20 °C and equipped with various combinations of blue (456 nm) and red (655 nm) LEDs [blue:red = 0:100 (0 B), 13:87 (13 B), 26:74 (26 B), 35:65 (35 B), 47:53 (47 B) or 59:41 (59 B)] under the same light intensity and photoperiod (171 ± 7 μmol·m−2·s−1, 12-hour photoperiod). Leaf width, leaf length, leaf area, fresh and dry weights of shoots and roots, chlorophyll content (SPAD value), total phenolic concentration, total flavonoid concentration, and antioxidant capacity were measured at 2 and 4 weeks after the onset of LED treatment. The leaf shape indices (leaf length/leaf width) of the two lettuce cultivars subjected to blue LEDs treatment were similar to the control, regardless of the blue-to-red ratio during the entire growth stage. However, 0 B (100% red LED) induced a significantly higher leaf shape index, which represents elongated leaf shape, compared with the other treatments. Increasing blue LED levels negatively affected lettuce growth. Most growth characteristics (such as the fresh and dry weights of shoots and leaf area) were highest under 0 B for both cultivars compared with all other LED treatments. For red and green leaf lettuce cultivar plants, shoot fresh weight under 0 B was 4.3 and 4.1 times higher compared with that under 59 B after 4 weeks of LED treatment, respectively. In contrast, the accumulation of chlorophyll, phenolics (including flavonoids), and antioxidants in both red and green leaf lettuce showed an opposite trend compared with that observed for growth. The SPAD value (chlorophyll content), total phenolic concentration, total flavonoid concentration, and antioxidant capacity of lettuces grown under high ratios of blue LED (such as 59 B, 47 B, and 35 B) were significantly higher compared with 0 B or control conditions. Thus, this study indicates that the ratio of blue to red LEDs is important for the morphology, growth, and phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties in the two lettuce cultivars tested.

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In a growth chamber study, lettuce (Lactuca sativa) plants were used to evaluate the effects of water deficits on health-promoting phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. Lettuce plants were treated with water stress by withholding water once at 6 weeks after sowing for 2 days or multiple times at 4 weeks for 4 days, at 5 weeks for 3 days, and at 6 weeks for 2 days. Water stress increased the total phenolic concentration and antioxidant capacity in lettuce. Young seedlings, 7 days after germination, had the highest total phenolic concentration and antioxidant capacity, and also, younger plants were typically more responsive to water stress treatments in accumulating the antioxidants than older plants. Phenylalanine ammonia lyase and γ-tocopherol methyltransferase genes, involved in the biosynthesis of phenolic compounds and vitamin E, respectively, were activated in response to water stress, although no activation of L-galactose dehydrogenase was detected. Lettuce plants subjected to multiple water stress treatments accumulated significant amounts of chicoric acid compared with the control plants. Although the increase in antioxidant activity in water stress-treated plants at harvest was not as great as in young seedlings, it was significantly higher than the control. One-time water stress treatment of lettuce at the time of harvest did not result in any adverse effect on plant growth. Thus, these results show that mild water stress in lettuce applied just before harvest can enhance its crop quality with regard to its phytochemical concentration without any significant adverse effect on its growth or yield.

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This study aimed to determine the effect of changes in light quality on the improvement of growth and bioactive compound synthesis in red-leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. ‘Sunmang’) grown in a plant factory with electrical lighting. Lettuce seedlings were subjected to 12 light treatments combining five lighting sources: red (R; 655 nm), blue (B; 456 nm), and different ratios of red and blue light combined with three light-emitting diodes [LEDs (R9B1, R8B2, and R6B4)]. Treatments were divided into control (continuous irradiation of each light source for 4 weeks), monochromatic (changing from R to B at 1, 2, or 3 weeks after the onset of the experiments), and combined (changing from R9B1 to R8B2 or R6B4 at 2 or 3 weeks after the onset of the experiments). Growth and photosynthetic rates of lettuce increased with increasing ratios of red light, whereas chlorophyll and antioxidant phenolic content decreased with increasing ratios of red light. Individual phenolic compounds, including chlorogenic, caffeic, chicoric, and ferulic acids, and kaempferol, showed a similar trend to that of total phenolics. Moreover, transcript levels of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) and chalcone synthase (CHS) genes were rapidly upregulated by changing light quality from red to blue. Although the concentration of bioactive compounds in lettuce leaves enhanced with blue light, their contents per lettuce plant were more directly affected by red light, suggesting that biomass as well as bioactive compounds’ accumulation should be considered to enhance phytochemical production. In addition, results suggested that growth and antioxidant phenolic compound synthesis were more sensitive to monochromatic light than to combined light variations. In conclusion, the adjustment of light quality at a specific growth stage should be considered as a strategic tool for improving crop yield, nutritional quality, or both in a plant factory with electrical lighting.

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To determine the adequate irrigation conditions in a nutrient-flow wick culture (NFW) system, the water contents of root media were analyzed with different wick lengths (2 and 3 cm), pot sizes (6-, 10-, and 15-cm diameter), and media compositions (mixtures of 5 peatmoss : 5 perlite and 7 peatmoss : 3 perlite). The growth of potted ‘New Alter’ kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) in the NFW system was also compared with that of plants grown in other irrigation systems, such as nutrient-stagnant wick culture and ebb-and-flow culture. All factors, such as wick length, pot size, and medium composition, influenced the water content of the medium in the NFW system. Pots that included more peatmoss with a shorter wick could easily take up the nutrient solution. The water content of the media increased by more than 8% and 5% in 2- and 3-cm wick lengths within 15 minutes respectively. The fluctuation of water content became greater with a decrease of pot size in the NFW system. Kalanchoe plants grew well in the NFW system with four irrigations for 15 min per day each. The dry weight and leaf area of the plants were higher in the NFW system (4×) and considerably lower in the NFW system with two irrigations for 15 min per day each. Therefore, more precise irrigation is required in the NFW system than in other systems.

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