Journal Article

Functional analysis of the relative growth rate, chemical composition, construction and maintenance costs, and the payback time of <i>Coffea arabica</i> L. leaves in response to light and water availability

Paulo C. Cavatte, Nélson F. Rodríguez-López, Samuel C. V. Martins, Mariela S. Mattos, Lílian M. V. P. Sanglard and Fábio M. DaMatta

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 63, issue 8, pages 3071-3082
Published in print May 2012 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online February 2012 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:

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In this study, the combined effects of light and water availability on the functional relationships of the relative growth rate (RGR), leaf chemical composition, construction and maintenance costs, and benefits in terms of payback time for Coffea arabica are presented. Coffee plants were grown for 8 months in 100% or 15% full sunlight and then a four-month water shortage was implemented. Plants grown under full sunlight were also transferred to shade and vice versa. Overall, most of the traits assessed were much more responsive to the availability of light than to the water supply. Larger construction costs (12%), primarily associated with elevated phenol and alkaloid pools, were found under full sunlight. There was a positive correlation between these compounds and the RGR, the mass-based net carbon assimilation rate and the carbon isotope composition ratio, which, in turn, correlated negatively with the specific leaf area. The payback time was remarkably lower in the sun than in shade leaves and increased greatly in water-deprived plants. The differences in maintenance costs among the treatments were narrow, with no significant impact on the RGR, and there was no apparent trade-off in resource allocation between growth and defence. The current irradiance during leaf bud formation affected both the specific leaf area and leaf physiology upon transferring the plants from low to high light and vice versa. In summary, sun-grown plants fixed more carbon for growth and secondary metabolism, with the net effect of an increased RGR.

Keywords: Alkaloids; chemical composition; coffee; construction costs; growth; payback time; phenols; photosynthesis; sun and shade leaves; water deficit

Journal Article.  7534 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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