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Photoinhibition At Chilling Temperatures

RM Smillie, SE Hetherington, J He, R Nott

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Relative susceptibilities of chilled leaves to photoinhibition were determined for 15 species of crop annuals showing a wide range of chilling tolerance. Leaf tissue at 7°C was exposed to a moderate photon irradiance of 300 �mol m-2 s-1 and photoinhibition was measured by the decrease in chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm) measured at 77K. All chilling-resistant plants surveyed (barley, broad bean, oat, pea and wheat) were photoinhibited at chilling temperatures. The chilling-sensitive plants (bean, cucumber, lablab, maize, pearl millet, pigeon pea, sesame, sorghum and tomato) were more susceptible, the mean of values for susceptibility to photoinhibition being twice that of the chilling-resistant plants. Rice, however, showed a tolerance to photoinhibition at 7°C comparable to that of some of the chilling- resistant plants. Indica rices were more susceptible than japonica rices. Photoinhibition increased with decreasing temperature and with increasing photon irradiance in both the chilling-resistant and sensitive plants. In pea and cucumber, photoinhibition at 7°C was correlated linearly with the decrease in photosystem II activity assayed in chloroplast thylakoids isolated from similarly treated tissue. Relative tolerances of leaves of the same 15 species to chilling injury in the dark were also measured. No linear correlation was found between susceptibility of chilled leaves to photoinhibition and susceptibility to dark chilling injury. The pattern of differences between species for photoinhibition at 7°C was largely preserved when photoinhibitory treatments were given at a non-chilling temperature (21°C) by increasing the photon irradiance to 900 �mol m-2 s-1. We conclude that, while the chilling-sensitive plants were generally more susceptible than the chilling-resistant ones to photoinhibition at low temperatures, this arose from a greater sensitivity to the irradiance rather than from the chilling sensitivity. Photoinhibition associated with low temperatures was also demonstrated in the tropical fruit species, banana, pawpaw and Monstera. Low values of Fv/Fm recorded in leaves exposed to full sunlight during the winter month of July (range 0.39-0.56 compared with 0.70-0.79 in January) indicated that photoinhibition could adversely affect some tropical perennial fruit species cultivated in semitropical or warm temperate areas experiencing recurrent cool to cold winters.