Genotypic variation in photosynthetic and leaf traits in cocoa
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The photosynthetic characteristics of eight contrasting cocoa genotypes were studied with the aim of examining genotypic variation in maximum (light-saturated) photosynthetic rates, light-response curve parameters and water use efficiency. Photosynthetic traits were derived from single leaf gas exchange measurements using a portable infra-red gas analyser. All measurements were conducted in a common greenhouse environment. Significant variation was observed in light-saturated photosynthesis ranging from 3.4 to 5.7 µmol CO2 m-2 s-1 for the clones IMC 47 and SCA 6, respectively. Furthermore, analyses of photosynthetic light response curves indicated genotypic differences in light saturation point and quantum efficiency (i.e. the efficiency of light use). Stomatal conductance was a significant factor underlying genotypic differences in assimilation. Genotypic variation was also observed in a number of leaf traits, including specific leaf area (the ratio of leaf area to leaf weight), chlorophyll concentration and nitrogen content. There was a positive correlation between leaf nitrogen per unit area and light-saturated photosynthesis. Water use efficiency, defined as the ratio of photosynthetic rate to transpiration rate, also varied significantly between clones (ranging from 3.1 mmol mol-1 H2O for the clone IMC 47 to 4.2 mmol mol-1 H2O for the clone ICS 1). Water use efficiency was a negative function of specific leaf area, suggesting that low specific leaf area might be a useful criterion for selection for increased water use efficiency. It is concluded that both variation in water use efficiency and the photosynthetic response to light have the potential to be exploited in breeding programmes.