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Crop management in greenhouses: adapting the growth conditions to the plant needs or adapting the plant to the growth conditions?

By L.F.M. Marcelis and S. De Pascale

Abstract

Strategies for improving greenhouse crop production should target both developing advanced technological systems and designing improved plants. Based on greenhouse experiments, crop models and biotechnological tools, this paper will discuss the physiology of plant-greenhouse interactions. It is discussed how these interactions can be applied to control the production process at Northern and Mediterranean climatic conditions. Absorption of light by the leaves is important for maximum crop photosynthesis. For this, it is important to have plants that develop as fast as possible a sufficient leaf area index. The question is: what leaf area index is needed for optimal crop performance? Most of the light is absorbed by the upper part of the canopy. Can we improve the light distribution in the canopy and, moreover, does this increases yield or quality? Virtual plant models may help to address this question. In some cases removal of older leaves can improve yield, while in other cases removal of young leaves may accomplish the same objective. In summer time the light transmission of the greenhouse is often reduced by growers to avoid plant stress. However, in several cases this stress is only an indirect effect of light, because other growth factors (e.g. temperature, humidity) tend to be suboptimal. In Northern countries CO2 supply is commonly used. The introduction of semi-closed greenhouses allows to maintain high CO2 concentrations all year round. In Mediterranean countries, a large yield increase is still feasible by CO2 supply. Optimum growth conditions means that there is a good balance among different climate conditions. The source/sink ratio of a crop (ratio between production and demand of assimilates) often reflects whether these conditions are balanced. Variation in the source/sink balance affects formation and abortion of organs, product quality and production fluctuations. Some examples are shown on temperature control based on the source/sink balance of a crop. Drought and salinity may limit production especially in the Mediterranean. Morphological and metabolic traits, with known genetic bases, can be functionally altered to test current hypotheses on plant-environment interactions and eventually design a greenhouse plant. Reasonably, such a plant should have specific shoot vs. root developmental patterns, efficient water and nutrient uptake systems as well as other specific features that have not been sufficiently explored. Elucidation of the complex plant-greenhouse interactions would establish a physiological basis to improve both product quality and resource use efficiency in greenhous

Year: 2009
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Provided by: NARCIS
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