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A large increase in agricultural production is needed to feed the increasing world population with their increasing demand per capita. However, growing competition for arable land, water, energy, and the degradation of the environment impose challenges to improve crop production. Hence agricultural production efficiency needs to increase. Greenhouses provide the possibility to create optimal growth conditions for crops, thereby improving production and product quality. Light is the driving force for plant photosynthesis and in greenhouse horticulture, light is often the most limiting factor for plant growth. Therefore, improving radiation use efficiency (RUE) in greenhouse production systems is imperative in order to improve plant growth and production. The objective of this thesis is to obtain insight in improving RUE in greenhouse production systems through better understanding of crop physiology. Three aspects related to RUE have been studied in this thesis, 1) improving light distribution in the crop canopy; 2) allowing more light in the greenhouse during summer; and 3) balancing the source and sink strength during plant growth.
Light is heterogeneously distributed in the crop canopy. Due to the saturating response of leaf photosynthesis rate to light, a more homogeneous light distribution in the canopy will result in a higher crop photosynthesis. In Chapter 2, the effect of diffuse glass on spatial light distribution in a fully developed tomato canopy and its direct and indirect effects on crop photosynthesis were explored. Diffuse glass, which transforms a portion of direct solar light into diffuse light without influencing the light transmissivity of the glass, was applied as greenhouse cover. Under diffuse glass cover, light was more evenly distributed (in both horizontal and vertical direction) within the canopy compared with plants grown under conventional clear glass cover. Besides a more uniform light distribution, diffuse glass also resulted in higher leaf photosynthetic capacity in the middle of the crop canopy and in a higher leaf area index (LAI). The higher leaf photosynthetic capacity was positively correlated with a higher leaf total nitrogen and chlorophyll content. Moreover, lower leaf temperature and less photo-inhibition of top canopy leaves were observed under diffuse glass cover when global radiation was high. Total crop photosynthesis between 1st April and 1st October was enhanced by 7.2 % under diffuse glass. This enhancement mainly resulted from four factors (in order of decreasing importance): a more homogeneous horizontal light distribution, a higher leaf photosynthetic capacity, a more uniform vertical light distribution and a higher LAI.
In summer growers of shade tolerant pot-plants often apply shading screens in the greenhouse or white wash on the greenhouse cover in order to avoid leaf or flower damage caused by high light. Shading carries a penalty on potential crop growth which is positively related to the amount of light that can be captured. Considering the advantageous properties of diffuse glass cover, i.e. a more homogeneous light distribution, a lower leaf temperature and less photo-inhibition when global radiation is high, in Chapter 3 we tested the feasibility of allowing more light (i.e. less shading) via diffuse glass cover for cultivation of shade tolerant pot-plants during summer. Two Anthurium andreanum cultivars (Pink Champion and Royal Champion) were grown in 3 greenhouse compartments. Under similar DLI [7.5 mol m-2 d-1 PAR (photosynthetic active radiation)], diffuse glass cover resulted in 8 % higher crop RUE (i.e. dry mass production per unit intercepted light) in ‘Royal Champion’ compared with clear glass cover treatment, which consequently resulted in higher total biomass production. This effect was not observed in ‘Pink Champion’. Under diffuse glass cover, high DLI (10 mol m-2 d-1 PAR) resulted in 20-23 % higher total biomass production in both cultivars compared with low DLI (7.5 mol m-2 d-1 PAR), this mainly resulted from the higher cumulative intercepted light. No flower or leaf damage was observed in these treatments. High DLI even resulted in more compact plants as indicated by a higher ratio of aboveground fresh mass to plant height.
In Chapter 4, we addressed a question resulting from Chapter 3, i.e. why the stimulating effect of diffuse light on crop RUE in anthurium pot-plants is cultivar specific? We excluded the fraction of canopy light interception and steady-state leaf photosynthesis as potential explanations, and explained it from instantaneous leaf photosynthesis which closely correlates with the temporal light distribution. Diffuse glass cover smoothed the variation of temporal light distribution at a given point on a leaf during a clear day, which consequently resulted in less temporal variation of stomatal conductance in ‘Royal Champion’ which had stomata showing a fast-response to the variation in light intensity. As stomata are the gateway for CO2 uptake, less variation in stomatal conductance imposed less limitation for leaf photosynthesis under diffuse glass cover, thereby resulting in a higher crop RUE. For ‘Pink Champion’, however, stomata were less responding to variations in light intensity. Therefore, stomata imposed only a marginal limitation on leaf photosynthesis even under clear glass cover where the temporal incident light intensity varied substantially due to the shadow cast by the greenhouse construction parts and equipment.
Application of supplementary assimilation light in greenhouses is rapidly increasing. The beneficial effect of supplementary assimilation light is determined by the balance between assimilate production in source leaves and the overall capacity of the plant to use these assimilates. Therefore, it is important to identify the source-sink balance during plant growth. In Chapter 5, three tomato cultivars with different potential fruit size [‘Komeett’ (large size); ‘Capricia’ (medium size); ‘Sunstream’ (small size, cherry tomato)] were grown under commercial crop management. We estimated the source-sink ratio from the early growth stage to fully fruiting stage through experimentation and model simulation. Carbohydrate content of leaves and stems were periodically determined. Tomato plants showed a period of sink limitation (‘Komeett’ and ‘Capricia’) or came close to sink limitation (‘Sunstream’) during the early growth stage under ample natural irradiance (early September) as indicated by a source-sink ratio higher than or close to 1. Fruiting tomato plants were source-limited as indicated by an extremely low source-sink ratio (average source-sink ratio from 50 days after planting onwards was 0.17, 0.22 and 0.33 for ‘Komeett’, ‘Capricia’ and ‘Sunstream’, respectively). During the fully fruiting stage, the source-sink ratio was negatively correlated with the potential fruit size when commercial fruit load was maintained. Carbohydrate content in tomato stems and leaves increased linearly with plant source-sink ratio.
The experiments and results described in this thesis provide insights for improving RUE in greenhouse production systems. The main achievements and limitations as well as practical applications are discussed in Chapter 6.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||26 Jan 2015|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
- greenhouse horticulture
- crop physiology
- agricultural production systems
- crop production
- radiation use efficiency
- use efficiency