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Study on photosynthetic photon flux in lettuce cultivation at different shading levels

Protected cultivation has grown in Brazil. Generally, greenhouses are covered with transparent plastic film and shading screen. The plastic, over time, loses its transparency due to pollution residues, dust and other debris. The loss of transparency reduces lightness, photosynthesis and leads to losses of productivity and product quality. The losses are not always detectable by the farmer.

Additionally, internal shading screens are used to reduce heating transmission to the ground. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of shading on lettuce crop productivity and to determine the optimum shading to reach the highest productivity. Plots were set up inside and outside the greenhouse, with four shading levels with black screens (0, 35, 50 and 75%). The treatments were converted to real shading from the photosynthetic photon flux measurement. The results of fresh and dry phytomass were treated and analyzed by regression as a function of the real shading.

In ambient conditions of photosynthetic photon fluxes around 1000 μmol m-2 s-1, reaching up to 2000 μmol m-2 s-1 at some hours of the day, typical of tropical environment, lettuce may support a shading of up to 50% without risk of productivity reduction; under these conditions, shading between 20 and 35% is beneficial, and can guarantee its maximum productivity in lettuce cultivation.

It is recommended that the lettuce producer in protected cultivation monitors the shelf life of the plastic, avoiding that the shading exceeds 50%. In order to compare shading experiments, one should use the incident photon flux (FFI) for the whole crop cycle, indicating the minimum limit value of FFI = 600 mol m-2 cycle-1 for the crispy lettuce at an average temperature close to 21oC.

Read the complete study on 

Cometti, Nilton & Silva, Josimar & Zonta, Everaldo & Cessa, Raphael. (2020). Evaluation of photosynthetic photon flux in lettuce cultivation at different shading levels. Horticultura Brasileira. 38. 65-70. 10.1590/s0102-053620200110. 

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