|dc.description.abstract||The general goal of this research was to understand the agronomic and physiological changes of a lucerne crop in distinct physical radiation environments and to verify the potential of lucerne to grow under shaded conditions. To achieve this, the research was conducted in four main steps: (i) firstly, experimental data collection in the field using two artificial shade materials (shade cloth and wooden slats) under inigated and non-irrigated conditions; (ii) a second experiment with data collection in a typical temperate dryland agroforestry area under non-irrigated conditions; (iii) generation of a light interception sub-model suitable for shaded crops and (iv) a linkage between the light interception sub-model and a canopy photosynthesis model for agroforestry use.
In experiments 1 and 2, lucerne crop was exposed to 6 different light regimes: full sunlight (FS), shade cloth (FS+CL), wooden slats (FS+SL), trees (T), trees+cloth (T +CL) and trees+slats (T+SL). The FS+SL structure produced a physical radiation environment (radiation transmission, radiation periodicity and spectral composition) that was similar to that observed in the agroforestry site (f). The mean annual photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) was 41 % under the FS+CL, 44% under FS+SL and 48% under T compared with FS in clear sky conditions. Plants were exposed to an intermittent (sun/shade) regime under both FS+SL and T, whereas under FS+CL the shaded light regime was continuous. The red to far-red (RIFR) ratio measured during the shade period under the slats was 0.74 and under the trees was 0.64. However, R/FR ratio increased to 1.26 and 1.23 during the illuminated period under FS+SL and T, respectively, and these were equivalent to the ratio of 1.28 observed under the FS+CL and 1.31 in FS.
The radiation use efficiency (RUE) of shoots increased under the 5 shaded treatments compared with full sunlight. The pattern of radiation interception was unchanged by radiation flux, periodicity and spectral composition and all treatments had a mean extinction coefficient of 0.82. However, the magnitude of the decrease in canopy growth was less than those in PPFD transmissivity. The mean lucerne annual dry matter (DM) yield was 17.5 t ha⁻¹ in FS and 10 t ha⁻¹ under the FS+CL, FS+SL and T regimes. This declined to 3.4 t DM ha⁻¹ under T+CL (22% PPFD transmissvity) and 4.1 t DM ha⁻¹ under T+SL (23% transmissivity). A similar pattern of response was observed for leaf net photosynthesis (Pn) rates under the shade treatments compared with full sun. In addition, spectral changes observed under the trees and slats affected plant motphology by increasing the number of long stems, stem height and internode length compared with full sunlight. Thus, there were two main explanations for the increase in RUE under shade compared with full sun: (i) preferential partition of assimilates to shoot rather than root growth and/or (ii) leaves under shade were still operating at an efficient part of the photosynthetic light curve.
The changes proposed for the canopy Pn model were appropriate to simulate the radiation environment of an agroforestry system. However, the model underestimated DM yields under the continuous and intermittent shade regimes. These were considered to be mainly associated with plant factors, such as overestimation in maintenance respiration and partitioning between shoots and roots in shade and the intermittency light effect on leaf Pn rates. Further investigation in these topics must be addressed to accurately predict crop yield in agroforestry areas. Overall, the lucerne crop responded typically as a sun-adapted plant under shade. It was concluded that lucerne yield potential to grow under intermediate shade was superior to most of C3 pastures previously promoted in the literature.||en