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Planta. 1977 Jan;134(1):5-10. doi: 10.1007/BF00390086.

The effect of atmospheric humidity on photosynthesis, transpiration and water use efficiency of leaves of several plant species.

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Division of Plant Industry, CSIRO, P.O. Box 1600, 2601, Canberra City, A.C.T., Australia.


The effect of humidity on the gas exchange of leaves of the dicotyledons soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merrill), sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.), jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis (L.) Schneider), and saltbush (Atriplex halimus L.) and the monocotyledons wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) and barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) Beauv.) was examined under conditions of adequate soil moisture in a controlled environment. Photosynthesis and stomatal and internal diffusion resistances of whole, attached, single leaves were not affected by changes in humidity as the vapour pressure deficit between the leaf and atmosphere ranged from 8 to 27 mb. Transpiration increased linearly with increasing vapour pressure deficit. Whole plants of barley exhibited a different response. As humidity was increased, photosynthesis increased, transpiration expressed per unit of vapour pressure difference increased, and diffusion resistances became smaller. Reasons for the different behaviour of single leaves and whole plants are suggested. An index for water use efficiency, expressed per millibar of vapour pressure deficit, was calculated for single leaves of each species used in the experiments. This showed that water use efficiency was highest in the C4 xerophytes and lowest in the C3 mesophytes. The effect of environment on water use efficiency is examined using data from the literature.


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