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J Exp Bot. 2004 Sep;55(405):2111-20. Epub 2004 Aug 13.

Influence of leaf-to-air vapour pressure deficit (VPD) on the biochemistry and physiology of photosynthesis in Prosopis juliflora.

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National Botanical Research Institute, Rana Pratap Marg, Lucknow-226 001, India.


The effect of leaf-to-air vapour pressure deficit (VPD) was studied in well-watered, potted, 1-2-year-old plants of the leguminous tree P. juliflora grown outside in northern India. The long-term responses to VPD were analysed from diurnal and seasonal variations in gas exchange parameters measured in two cohorts of leaves produced in February and July, respectively. In general, inhibitory effects of high VPD were visible only when the VPD level exceeded a threshold of >3 kPa. There was a substantial decline in net photosynthesis rate and stomatal conductance at high VPD >4 kPa and transpiration showed a decrease in steady-state rate or feedforward response to VPD. The feedforward responses were visible in all seasons, although the plants were exposed to a wide range of VPD during the year and leaf relative water content was constant. The maximum quantum efficiency of PSII measured predawn was constant (around 0.8) in all seasons except summer. Short-term experiments showed that, although gas exchange was severely affected by high VPD in the leaves of both cohorts, the plant maintained a constant, water use efficiency in different seasons. High VPD also caused reductions in Rubisco activity, affecting carboxylation efficiency, and reductions in sucrose and starch content due to a decrease in the activity of sucrose-phosphate synthase. However, the relative quantum yield of PSII and electron transport rates measured at 1500 micromol m(-2) s(-1) were unaffected by increasing VPD, indicating the presence of a large alternative sink possibly, photorespiration. The overall results showed that P. juliflora can withstand high VPD by reducing metabolic activity and by effective adjustments in the partitioning of electron flow between assimilation and non-assimilation processes, which, in turn, imposed a strong limitation on the potential carbon gain.

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