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Ultraviolet (UV) transparent plastic claddings warm crops and improve water use efficiency

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Abstract

Advances in the manufacturing of plastic cladding for protected crop cultivation have resulted in wavelength selective plastics capable of manipulating the transmission of solar radiation to include ultraviolet (UV: 280-400 nm). Commercial growers already utilising these plastics report early maturity associated with warmer crops. We hypothesised that UV-B radiation causes partial stomatal closure that reduces stomatal conductance and transpiration rate, thereby increasing leaf temperature (relative to air temperature). We tested this hypothesis by investigating leaf gas exchange and temperature responses of individual tomato leaves to UV-B and UV-A radiation provided by UV lamps in a controlled environment. Transient (90 min) exposure to UV-B radiation decreased stomatal conductance but had minimal impact on photosynthesis, thus increasing leaf temperature and instantaneous water use efficiency. Should this enhanced water use efficiency also occur at a whole plant/canopy scale, these responses may benefit growers of protected crops in arid climates where plastic clad polytunnels are often utilised. © 2020 International Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.