Photoprotective energy dissipation is greater in the lower, not the upper, regions of a rice canopy: a 3D analysis.
High light intensities raise photosynthetic and plant growth rates but can cause damage to the photosynthetic machinery. The likelihood and severity of deleterious effects are minimised by a set of photoprotective mechanisms, one key process being the controlled dissipation of energy from chlorophyll within PSII known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). Although ubiquitous, the role of NPQ in plant productivity is important because it momentarily reduces the quantum efficiency of photosynthesis. Rice plants overexpressing and deficient in the gene encoding a central regulator of NPQ, the protein PsbS, were used to assess the effect of protective effectiveness of NPQ (pNPQ) at the canopy scale. Using a combination of three-dimensional reconstruction, modelling, chlorophyll fluorescence, and gas exchange, the influence of altered NPQ capacity on the distribution of pNPQ was explored. A higher phototolerance in the lower layers of a canopy was found, regardless of genotype, suggesting a mechanism for increased protection for leaves that experience relatively low light intensities interspersed with brief periods of high light. Relative to wild-type plants, psbS overexpressors have a reduced risk of photoinactivation and early growth advantage, demonstrating that manipulating photoprotective mechanisms can impact both subcellular mechanisms and whole-canopy function.