Plants Monitor Day Length by Measuring the Length of the Night

Under natural conditions, day and night lengths configure a 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. In principle, a plant could perceive a critical day length by measuring the duration of either light or darkness. Much experimental work in the early studies of photoperiodism was devoted to establishing which part of the light-dark cycle is the controlling factor in flowering. Results showed that flowering of SDPs is determined primarily by the duration of darkness (Figure 24.19A). It was possible to induce flowering in SDPs with light periods longer than the critical value, provided that these were followed by sufficiently long nights (Figure 24.19B). Similarly, SDPs did not flower when short days were followed by short nights.

More detailed experiments demonstrated that photope-riodic timekeeping in SDPs is a matter of measuring the duration of darkness. For example, flowering occurred only when the dark period exceeded 8.5 hours in cocklebur

(Xanthium strumarium) or 10 hours in soybean (Glycine max). The duration of darkness was also shown to be important in LDPs (see Figure 24.19). These plants were found to flower in short days, provided that the accompanying night length was also short; however, a regime of long days followed by long nights was ineffective.

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