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Keywords:

  • elevated CO2;
  • FACE;
  • Solanum tuberosum

Abstract

A FACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) experiment was carried out on Potato (Solanum tuberosum L., cv. Primura) in 1995 in Italy. Three FACE rings were used to fumigate circular field plots of 8 m diameter while two rings were used as controls at ambient CO2 concentrations. Four CO2 exposure levels were used in the rings (ambient, 460, 560 and 660 μmol mol–1). Phenology and crop development, canopy surface temperature, above- and below-ground biomass were monitored during the growing season. Crop phenology was affected by elevated CO2, as the date of flowering was progressively anticipated in the 660, 560, 460 μmol mol–1 treatments. Crop development was not affected significantly as plant height, leaf area and the number of leaves per plant were the same in the four treatments. Elevated atmospheric CO2 levels had, instead, a significant effect on the accumulation of total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC = soluble sugars + starch) in the leaves during a sunny day. Specific leaf area was decreased under elevated CO2 with a response that paralleled that of TNC concentrations. This reflected the occurrence of a progressive increase of photosynthetic rates and carbon assimilation in plants exposed to increasingly higher levels of atmospheric CO2. Tuber growth and final tuber yield were also stimulated by rising CO2 levels. When calculated by regression of tuber yield vs. the imposed levels of CO2concentration, yield stimulation was as large as 10% every 100 μmol mol–1 increase, which translated into over 40% enhancement in yield under 660 μmol mol–1. This was related to a higher number of tubers rather than greater mean tuber mass or size. Leaf senescence was accelerated under elevated CO2 and a linear relationship was found between atmospheric CO2 levels and leaf reflectance measured at 0.55 μm wavelength. We conclude that significant CO2 stimulation of yield has to be expected for potato under future climate scenarios, and that crop phenology will be affected as well.