selenium spray, than in those that received either treatment alone. The positive role of Se has been demonstrated for Euglena gracilis (Ekelund and Danilov 2001) and for lettuce (Pennanen et al. 2002); the accelerating effect of Se on the growth of UV-B treated plants could be the result of the protection of chloroplast enzymes. Interactive effect of enhanced UV-B radiation in combination with Se treatment studied by Breznik (2007) has been depicted in Fig. 12.2.
Stratospheric ozone depletion, resulting in increased intensity of UV-B radiation at the Earth's surface, has been one of the most evident changes since the 1980s. The effects of enhanced UV-B radiation on plants have been widely studied, showing that UV-B radiation can have a deleterious effect. Crops have been shown to be even more sensitive, because they have been subjected to long-term breeding. The effects of enhanced UV-B radiation showed that UV-B radiation damaged DNA, as shown in tobacco and Arabidopsis. Transpiration rate was decreased by 50% in common and tartary buckwheat as well as in soybean. The changes in photosynthesis in many species, e.g. rice and maize, are mainly due to degradation or inactivation of Calvin cycle enzymes rather than disruption of PSII photochemistry. Studies of respiratory potential for common buckwheat, tartary buckwheat and pumpkin under irradiation indicated lower terminal electron transport activity and thus lower respiration. Studies of crop phenology under enhanced UV-B radiation showed variable results. Delayed germination and flowering were found in bean. The habitus of crops is also affected by enhanced UV-B radiation. Numerous crops, such as tartary buckwheat, common buckwheat, soybean, rice and cotton, when treated by UV-B radiation, were shorter as a consequence of disturbances during the early development stage. As a consequence of a loss of apical dominance, many crops, including bean and Lolium sp., exhibited increased tillering. However, the study on common and tartary buckwheat revealed reduced tillering. Leaf area index decreased in many crops, like cotton and common and tartary buckwheat. Enhanced UV-B radiation frequently affects the biomass distribution and reproduction of most crops. Recent studies on common buckwheat, tartary buckwheat, pea plants, wheat, bush bean, rice, soybean and cotton showed decreases in total biomass production of 10-50%. In contrast, a few studies showed no effects on biomass production of barley and strawberry or even an increase, as reported in broad bean and a cultivar of wheat. The effect of UV-B radiation can be increased or mitigated by environmental factors. Elevated CO2 levels compensated the damaging effects caused by UV-B radiation on growth and physiological parameters of soybean and canola. Further, UV-B irradiation increased freezing tolerance in winter wheat seedlings. Studies on pea and wheat showed that negative effects of enhanced UV-B radiation were alleviated by moderate drought. Ameliorating effects of drought could be ascribed to increased activity of anti-oxidative enzymes that protect plants against oxidative damage caused by UV-B radiation. On the other hand, it was suggested that drought masks UV-B effects on plants, because drought constitutes a stronger stress for plants than enhanced UV-B radiation. It was also shown that plants treated with selenium exhibit increased tolerance to enhanced UV-B radiation due to an anti-oxidative role of selenium that prevents plants from oxidative damage as has been detected in pumpkin, lettuce, ryegrass, potato and buckwheat.
Acknowledgments We thank Prof. Roger Pain, Josef Institute, Ljubljana, for critical reading the manuscript.
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