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The efficiency of monochromatic light to drive photosynthesis drops rapidly at wavelengths longer than 685nm. The photosynthetic efficiency of these longer wavelengths can be improved by adding shorter wavelength light, a phenomenon known as the Emerson enhancement effect. The reverse effect, the enhancement of photosynthesis under shorter wavelength light by longer wavelengths, however, has not been well studied and is often thought to be insignificant. We quantified the effect of adding far-red light (peak at 735nm) to red/blue or warm-white light on the photosynthetic efficiency of lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Adding far-red light immediately increased quantum yield of photosystem II (ΦPSII) of lettuce by an average of 6.5 and 3.6% under red/blue and warm-white light, respectively. Similar or greater increases in ΦPSII were observed after 20min of exposure to far-red light. This longer-term effect of far-red light on ΦPSII was accompanied by a reduction in non-photochemical quenching of fluorescence (NPQ), indicating that far-red light reduced the dissipation of absorbed light as heat. The increase in ΦPSII and complementary decrease in NPQ is presumably due to preferential excitation of photosystem I (PSI) by far-red light, which leads to faster re-oxidization of the plastoquinone pool. This facilitates reopening of PSII reaction centers, enabling them to use absorbed photons more efficiently. The increase in ΦPSII by far-red light was associated with an increase in net photosynthesis (Pn). The stimulatory effect of far-red light increased asymptotically with increasing amounts of far-red. Overall, our results show that far-red light can increase the photosynthetic efficiency of shorter wavelength light that over-excites PSII. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.


Shuyang Zhen, Marc W van Iersel. Far-red light is needed for efficient photochemistry and photosynthesis. Journal of plant physiology. 2017 Feb;209:115-122

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PMID: 28039776

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