Disentangling the effects of photosynthetically active radiation and red to far-red ratio on plant photosynthesis under canopy shading. A simulation study using a functional-structural plant model

Zhang, Ningyi; Westreenen, Arian Van; Anten, Niels P.R.; Evers, Jochem B.; Marcelis, Leo F.M.


Background and Aims
Shading by an overhead canopy (i.e., canopy shading) entails simultaneous changes in both photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and red to far-red ratio (R:FR). As plant responses to PAR (e.g. changes in leaf photosynthesis) are different from responses to R:FR (e.g. changes in plant architecture), and these responses occur at both organ and plant levels, understanding plant photosynthesis responses to canopy shading needs separate analysis of responses to reductions in PAR and R:FR at different levels.
In a greenhouse experiment we subjected plants of woody perennial rose (Rosa hybrida) to different light treatments, and so separately quantified the effects of reductions in PAR and R:FR on leaf photosynthetic- and plant architectural traits. Using a functional-structural plant model, we separately quantified the effects of responses in these traits on plant photosynthesis, and evaluated the relative importance of changes of individual traits for plant photosynthesis under mild and heavy shading caused by virtual overhead canopies.
Key Results
Model simulations showed that the individual trait responses to canopy shading could have positive and negative effects on plant photosynthesis. Under mild canopy shading, trait responses to reduced R:FR on photosynthesis were generally negative and with a larger magnitude than effects of responses to reduced PAR. Conversely, under heavy canopy shading, the positive effects of trait responses to reduced PAR became dominant. The combined effects of low-R:FR responses and low-PAR responses on plant photosynthesis were not equal to the sum of the separate effects, indicating interactions between individual trait responses.
Our simulation results indicate that under canopy shading, the relative importance of plant responses to PAR and R:FR for plant photosynthesis changes with shade levels. This suggests that the adaptive significance of plant plasticity responses to one shading factor depends on plant responses to the other.