Irradiance Levels Affect Growth Parameters and Carotenoid Pigments in Kale and Spinach Grown in a Controlled Environment

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Carotenoids play critical roles in both light harvesting and energy dissipation for the protection of photosynthetic structures. However, limited research is available on the impact of irradiance on the production of secondary plant compounds, such as carotenoid pigments. Kale (Brassica oleracea L.) and spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) are two leafy vegetables high in lutein and β-carotene carotenoids. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of different irradiance levels on tissue biomass, elemental nutrient concentrations, and lutein β-carotene and chlorophyll (chl) pigment accumulation in the leaves of kale and spinach. ‘Winterbor’ kale and ‘Melody’ spinach were grown in nutrient solution culture in growth chambers at average irradiance levels of 125, 200, 335, 460, and 620 μmol m−2 s−1. Highest tissue lutein β-carotene and chls occurred at 335 μmol m−2 s−1 for kale, and 200 μmol m−2 s−1 for spinach. The accumulations of lutein and β-carotene were significantly different among irradiance levels for kale, but were not significantly different for spinach. However, lutein and β-carotene accumulation was significant for spinach when computed on a dry mass basis. Identifying effects of irradiance on carotenoid accumulation in kale and spinach is important information for growers producing these crops for dry capsule supplements and fresh markets.

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