The mechanisms of plant responses to single and multiple biotic and abiotic stresses are far away of being resolved. To validate plants' responses in their natural habitat experiments under realistic and reproducible conditions are essential. EUS has developed and is operating a phytotron facility with four walk-in-size exposure chambers, three sun simulators, and eight greenhouse cabinets, where a multitude of environmental conditions typically for the mid latitudes can be simulated.

Plants use sunlight not solely as energy source for photosynthesis. Different parts of the global irradiation spectrum (ultraviolet, blue and far-red radiation) are sensed by photoreceptors enabling plants to develop and adapt to different environmental conditions. Indoor studies must, therefore, deal with a "light climate" as realistic as possible. Next to the intensity of the global irradiance itself, the ratio between ultraviolet (UV 280-400 nm) and photosynthetic active radiation (PAR 400-700 nm) triggers plant responses. In nature this ratio depends on the sun elevation. For a realistic simulation of global irradiation the phytotrons account for the daily course of light intensity and the intraday shade of the spectral distribution.

Besides the lighting, air temperature, and air humidity, we also control the composition of the chamber’s atmosphere (e.g. CO2 and VOCs). Typical gaseous pollutants such as ozone, nitric oxides, and combustion residuals can be applied to the plants. Gaseous and liquid application of stable isotopes (13C, 15N, 18O) enables tracing of metabolic fluxes within plants and within microcosms. Modern control technology with central monitoring allows a safe and well-defined operation.

Selected Publications

Luedemann et al. (2009) Contrasting ozone x pathogen interaction as mediated through competition between juvenile European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and Norway spruce (Picea abies). Plant and Soil 323(1-2): 47-6.

Nunn et al. (2005) Comparison of ozone uptake and sensitivity between a phytotron study with young beech and a field experiment with adult beech (Fagus sylvatica). Environ. Pollut. 137: 494-506.

Schnitzler et al. (1999) Ameliorating effect of UV-B radiation on the response of Norway spruce and Scots pine to ambient ozone concentrations. Global Change Biology 5: 83-94.

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