The oxidation kinetics under far-red light (FRL) of photosystem I (PSI) high potential donors P700, plastocyanin (PC), and cytochrome f (Cyt f) were investigated in sunflower leaves with the help of a new high-sensitivity photometer at 810 nm. The slopes of the 810 nm signal were measured immediately before and after FRL was turned on or off. The same derivatives (slopes) were calculated from a mathematical model based on redox equilibrium between P700, PC and Cyt f and the parameters of the model were varied to fit the model to the measurements. Typical best-fit pool sizes were 1.0-1.5 micromol m(-2) of P700, 3 PC/P700 and 1 Cyt f/P700, apparent equilibrium constants were 15 between P700 and PC and 3 between PC and Cyt f. Cyclic electron flow (CET) was calculated from the slope of the signal after FRL was turned off. CET activated as soon as electrons accumulated on the PSI acceptor side. The quantum yield of CET was close to unity. Consequently, all PSI in the leaf were able to perform in cycle, questioning the model of compartmentation of photosynthetic functions between the stroma and grana thylakoids. The induction of CET was very fast, showing that it was directly redox-controlled. After longer dark exposures CET dominated, because linear e- transport was temporarily hindered by the dark inactivation of ferredoxin-NADP reductase.