Peas (Pisum sativum
L.) belong among the world’s oldest domesticated crops, serving as a source of proteins, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Autumn sowing allows a higher biomass production as well as the avoidance of the drought and heat stresses of late spring. However, the character of European continental winters limits plant growth and development through cold stress. This work sought parameters that reflect the cold tolerance of pea plants and consequently to suggest an afila-type pea cultivar with resilience to European continental winters. For this purpose, we employed indoor remote sensing technology and compared the 22-day-long acclimation to 5 °C of four pea cultivars: Arkta, with normal leaves and the known highest cold resistance to European continental winters, and Enduro, Terno and CDC Le Roy, all of the afila type. Besides evaluation of shoot growth rate and quenching analysis of chlorophyll fluorescence (ChlF) by imaging methods, we measured the chlorophyll content and ChlF induction with a nonimaging fluorometer. Here we show that the acclimation to cold of the Arkta exhibits a different pattern than the other cultivars. Arkta showed the fastest retardation of photosynthesis and shoot growth, which might be part of its winter survival strategy. Terno, on the other hand, showed sustained photosynthetic performance and growth, which might be an advantageous strategy for spring. Surprisingly, Enduro showed sustained photosynthesis in the stipules, which transferred and acclimated to 5 °C (cold-acclimated). However, of all the cultivars, Enduro had the strongest inhibition of photosynthesis in new stipules that developed after the transition to cold (cold-developed). We conclude that the parameters of ChlF spatial imaging calculated as averages from whole plants are suboptimal for the characterization of various cold acclimation strategies. The most marked changes were obtained when the new cold-developed leaves were analyzed separately from the rest of the plant.
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