Hemp currently regains certain importance as fiber, oil and medical crop not least because of its modest requirements of biocides, fertilizer and water. During recent years, crops were exposed to a combination of drought and heat, even in northern Central-Europe. Dynamic responses of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance to these stresses and their persistent effects had been studied, if at all, in controlled environment experiments. Comprehensive field studies on diurnal and long-term net photosynthesis and gas exchange, and yield properties of hemp during a drought prone, high-temperature season in northern Central-Europe are obviously missing. Thus, in whole season field trails, the essential actual physiological (rates of net photosynthesis and transpiration, stomatal conductance, water use efficiencies, ambient and internal CO2
concentrations) and the yield performance of modern high-yielding multi-purpose hemp cultivars, ‘Ivory’ and ‘Santhica 27’, were evaluated under extreme environmental conditions and highly limited soil water supply. This provides comprehensive information on the usability of these cultivars under potential future harsh production conditions. Plants of both cultivars differentially cope with the prevailing climatic and soil water conditions. While ‘Ivory’ plants developed high rates of CO2
gain and established large leaf area per plant in the mid-season, those of ‘Santhica 27’ utilized lower CO2
uptake rates at lower leaf area per plant most time. This and the higher germination success of ‘Santhica 27’ resulted in nearly twice the yield compared to ‘Ivory’. Although stomatal control of CO2
gain was pronounced in both cultivars, higher stomatal limitations in ‘Ivory’ plants resulted in higher overall intrinsic water use efficiency. Cultivation of both hemp cultivars with only basic irrigation during seed germination was successful and without large effects on yield and quality. This was valid even under extremely hot and dry climatic conditions in northern Central Europe.
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