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Physiological and biochemical abilities of robusta coffee leaves for acclimation to cope with temporal changes in light availability

Rodríguez‐López, Nelson F., Cavatte, Paulo C., Silva, Paulo E. M., Martins, Samuel C. V., Morais, Leandro E., Medina, Eduardo F., DaMatta, Fábio M.
Physiologia plantarum 2013 v.149 no.1 pp. 45-55
Coffea canephora, acclimation, antioxidants, clones, enzymes, experimental design, leaves, light intensity, nutrient use efficiency, photoinhibition, solar radiation, temporal variation, tree shelters, water use efficiency
The effects of varying intensities of light on plants depend on when they occur, even if the total amount of light received is kept constant. We designed an experiment using two clones of robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) intercropped with shelter trees in such a way that allowed us to compare coffee bushes shaded in the morning (SM) with those shaded in the afternoon (SA), and then confronting both with bushes receiving full sunlight over the course of the day (FS). The SM bushes displayed better gas‐exchange performance than their SA and FS counterparts, in which the capacity for CO₂ fixation was mainly constrained by stomatal (SA bushes) and biochemical (FS bushes) factors. Physiological traits associated with light capture were more responsive to temporal fluctuations of light rather than to the amount of light received, although this behavior could be a clone‐specific response. The activity of key antioxidant enzymes differed minimally when comparing the SM and SA clones, but was much larger in FS clones. No signs of photoinhibition or cell damage were found regardless of the light treatments. Acclimations to varying light supplies had no apparent additional cost for constructing and maintaining the leaves regardless of the light supply. Both the SM and SA individuals displayed higher return in terms of revenue streams (e.g. higher mass‐based light‐saturated photosynthetic rates, photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiencies and long‐term water use efficiencies) than their FS counterparts. In conclusion, shading may improve the physiological performance of coffee bushes growing in harsh, tropical environments.