Substituting Far-Red for Traditionally Defined Photosynthetic Photons Results in Equal Canopy Quantum Yield for CO2 Fixation and Increased Photon Capture During Long-Term Studies: Implications for Re-Defining PAR. Academic Article uri icon


  • Far-red photons regulate shade avoidance responses and can have powerful effects on plant morphology and radiation capture. Recent studies have shown that far-red photons (700 to 750 nm) efficiently drive photosynthesis when added to traditionally defined photosynthetic photons (400-700 nm). But the long-term effects of far-red photons on canopy quantum yield have not yet been determined. We grew lettuce in a four-chamber, steady-state canopy gas-exchange system to separately quantify canopy photon capture, quantum yield for CO2 fixation, and carbon use efficiency. These measurements facilitate a mechanistic understanding of the effect of far-red photons on the components of plant growth. Day-time photosynthesis and night-time respiration of lettuce canopies were continuously monitored from seedling to harvest in five replicate studies. Plants were grown under a background of either red/blue or white light, each background with or without 15% (50 mol m-2 s-1) of far-red photons substituting for photons between 400 and 700 nm. All four treatments contained 31.5% blue photons, and an equal total photon flux from 400 to 750 nm of 350 mol m-2 s-1. Both treatments with far-red photons had higher canopy photon capture, increased daily carbon gain (net photosynthesis minus respiration at night), and 29 to 31% more biomass than control treatments. Canopy quantum yield was similar among treatments (0.057 0.002mol of CO2 fixed in gross photosynthesis per mole of absorbed photons integrated over 400 to 750 nm). Carbon use efficiency (daily carbon gain/gross photosynthesis) was also similar for mature plants (0.61 0.02). Photosynthesis increased linearly with increasing photon capture and had a common slope among all four treatments, which demonstrates that the faster growth with far-red photon substitution was caused by enhanced photon capture through increased leaf expansion. The equivalent canopy quantum yield among treatments indicates that the absorbed far-red photons were equally efficient for photosynthesis when acting synergistically with the 400-700 nm photons.

published proceedings

  • Front Plant Sci

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhen, S., & Bugbee, B.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Zhen, Shuyang||Bugbee, Bruce

publication date

  • January 2020