Garlic is considered to have a strong positive effect on the growth and yield of receptors under soil cultivation conditions. However, how this positive promotion is produced by changing the growth environment of the receptors or directly acting on the receptors is still not very clear. The direct influence of co-culturing with different quantities of garlic plants (the control 5, 10, 15, 20) on the growth and biochemical processes of cucumber plants was studied using a hydroponic co-culture system. Different numbers of garlic bulbs inhibited the growth of cucumber plants and increased the production and induction of reactive oxygen species, which accompanied the enhancement of lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage to cucumber. This allelopathic exposure further reduced the chlorophyll contents and photosynthesis rate, and consequently impaired the photosynthetic performance of photosystem II (PSII). Garlic root exudates increased the leaves’ carbohydrates accumulation, such as soluble sugar contents and sucrose levels by regulating the activities of metabolismic enzymes; however, no such accumulation was observed in the roots. Our results suggested that garlic root exudates can mediate negative plant–plant interactions and its phytotoxic influence on cucumber plants may have occurred through the application of oxidative stress, which consequently imbalanced the source-to-sink photo-assimilate flow.
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