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Substrate Acidification by Geranium: Light Effects and Phosphorus Uptake
Sudden pH decline (SPD) describes the situation where crops growing at an appropriate pH rapidly (within 1-2 weeks) cause the substrate pH to shift downward one to two units. 'Designer Dark Red' geraniums (Pelargonium xhortorum Bailey) were grown in three experiments to assess possible effects of light on SPD and phosphorous (P) uptake. The first experiment tested the effect of four light intensities (105, 210, 575, and 1020 +/- 25 μmol·m-2·s-1) on substrate acidification. At 63 days, substrate pH declined from 6.0 to 4.8 as light intensity increased. Tissue P of plants grown at the highest two light levels was extremely low (0.10%-0.14% of dry weight). P stress has been reported to cause acidification. Because plants in the two lowest light treatments had adequate P, it was not possible to determine if the drop in substrate pH was a direct light effect or a combination of light and P. The second experiment used a factorial combination of the three highest light levels from Expt. 1 and five preplant P rates (0, 0.065, 0.13, 0.26, or 0.52 g·L-1 substrate) to assess this question. When tissue P concentrations were deficient, pH decreased by 0.6 to 1.0 pH units within 2 weeks and deficiency occurred more often with high light intensity. These data indicated that P deficiency caused substrate acidification and indicated the possibility that P uptake was suppressed by high light intensity. The third experiment was conducted in hydroponics to determine the direct effect of high light intensity on P uptake. In this experiment, cumulative P uptake per gram root and the rate of P uptake per gram root per day both decreased 20% when light intensity increased from 500 to 1100 μmol·m-2·s-1. It is clear from this study that P deficiency causes geraniums to acidify the substrate and that high light suppresses P uptake.
Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 2008 July, v. 133, no. 4
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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