The physiological response of the sweet cherry leaf to non-freezing low temperatures


The effect of exposure of sweet cherry trees (Prunus avium L.) to non-freezing low temperature was investigated by measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence, gas exchange parameters and chlorophyll content in two experiments. In Experiment I, cultivars ‘Grace Star’ and ‘Schneiders’ were exposed to an average of 4.7 °C 21 and 27 days after full blooming (DAFB) and in Experiment II, cultivar ‘Grace Star’ to 2.2 °C 50 DAFB, for one, two or three consecutive nights. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of low temperature exposure (LTE) on leaf physiology, recovery time and differences between cultivars in response to chilling stress. After the first, second and third LTE, a decrease in maximum and effective quantum yield of PS II (Fv/Fm and Fv′/Fm′), net photosynthesis (Pn), stomatal conductance (gs) and transpiration (E) was observed. Multiple LTE caused a greater physiological disturbance than single LTE. The recovery time after multiple LTE was prolonged. Trees with one and two LTE reached similar values to the controls within 24 and 48 h, respectively, while trees with three LTE did not reach within 48 h. The LTE in Experiment I showed no effect on Fv/Fm, while two LTE induced lower Pn, gs and E. After LTE, no differences between cultivars were found. The effect of chilling stress was more pronounced at lower temperatures and when the trees were chilled for several consecutive nights.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5



Photosystem II

Fv/Fm :

Maximum quantum yield of photosystem II


Effective quantum yield of photosystem II


Net photosynthesis


Stomatal conductance




Intercellular leaf CO2 concentration


Cold storage room


Days after full blooming


Growing degree days


Nonphotochemical quenching


Average daily temperature


Average night temperature


Minimum night temperature


Standard error


Low temperature exposure


Low temperature


One exposure to low temperature


Two consecutive exposures to low temperature


Three consecutive exposures to low temperature


Measurements before starting an experiment I (at time -24)


Measurements immediately after one low temperature exposure


Measurements immediately after two consecutive low temperature exposures


Measurements immediately after three consecutive low temperature exposures


Measurements 24 h after one low temperature exposure


Measurements 24 h after two consecutive low temperature exposures


Measurements 24 h after three consecutive low temperature exposures


Measurements 48 h after one low temperature exposure


Measurements 48 h after two consecutive low temperature exposures


Measurements 48 h after three consecutive low temperature exposures


Control measurements before starting an experiment I (at time -24)


Control measurements at time 0


Control measurements at time 24


Control measurements at time 48


Control measurements at time 72


Control measurements at time 96


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This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS), Young Researchers Program (MV) and research core funding nos. P4-0013 (MV, MH, VU) and P4-0085 (DK, DV).

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All authors conceived and designed the work. MV, MH, DV and VU participated in data collection. DK and MV performed the statistical analyses; MV wrote manuscript, VU, DV and DK edited and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the paper.

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Correspondence to Matej Vosnjak.

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Vosnjak, M., Kastelec, D., Vodnik, D. et al. The physiological response of the sweet cherry leaf to non-freezing low temperatures. Hortic. Environ. Biotechnol. (2021).

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  • Chilling stress
  • Leaf physiology
  • Prunus avium
  • Photochemical efficiency
  • Photosynthesis
  • Recovery