Background and aims: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) play various roles in plant-plant interactions, and constitutively produced VOCs might act as a cue to sense neighbouring plants. Previous studies have shown that VOCs emitted from the barley (Hordeum vulgare) cultivar 'Alva' cause changes in biomass allocation in plants of the cultivar 'Kara'. Other studies have shown that shading and the low red:far-red (R:FR) conditions that prevail at high plant densities can reduce the quantity and alter the composition of the VOCs emitted by Arabidopsis thaliana, but whether this affects plant-plant signalling remains unknown. This study therefore examines the effects of far-red light enrichment on VOC emissions and plant-plant signalling between 'Alva' and 'Kara'.
Methods: The proximity of neighbouring plants was mimicked by supplemental far-red light treatment of VOC emitter plants of barley grown in growth chambers. Volatiles emitted by 'Alva' under control and far-red light-enriched conditions were analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). 'Kara' plants were exposed to the VOC blend emitted by the 'Alva' plants that were subjected to either of the light treatments. Dry matter partitioning, leaf area, stem and total root length were determined for 'Kara' plants exposed to 'Alva' VOCs, and also for 'Alva' plants exposed to either control or far-red-enriched light treatments.
Key results: Total VOC emissions by 'Alva' were reduced under low R:FR conditions compared with control light conditions, although individual volatile compounds were found to be either suppressed, induced or not affected by R:FR. The altered composition of the VOC blend emitted by 'Alva' plants exposed to low R:FR was found to affect carbon allocation in receiver plants of 'Kara'.
Conclusions: The results indicate that changes in R:FR light conditions influence the emissions of VOCs in barley, and that these altered emissions affect VOC-mediated plant-plant interactions.
Keywords: Barley; Hordeum vulgare; VOCs; biomass allocation; ethylene; light quality; phytochrome; plant density; plant–plant signalling; red:far-red ratio; shade avoidance; volatile organic compounds.
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