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Sylvan H. Wittwer and Nicolas Castilla

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Juan M. Ruiz, Joaquín Hernández, Nicolas Castilla and Luis Romero

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) `Spunta' plants were grown with the root zone covered by different types of polyethylene plastic mulches. The plastic mulches used were transparent, white, co-extruded black and white, and black. As a control, plants were grown without plastic mulch. The parameters analyzed were soil temperature, root concentration of K and Ca, and enzymatic activities of ATPase and pyruvate kinase (PK), measured as basal and in the presence of K+ and Ca2+. The physical characteristics of the plastic mulches directly influenced soil and root temperatures in potato plants. In addition, the concentration of cations in the roots (particularly Ca2+) and basal ATPase activity were affected by soil temperature, whereas basal PK was not affected by soil temperature. The use of co-extruded black and white plastic mulch improved the nutritional status of Ca in the roots of potato plants. Finally, the basal ATPase and PK activities in the presence of K+ and Ca2+ were related with the root levels of these cations.