Field and greenhouse experiments were conducted from 2013 to 2015 at the University of Wyoming to evaluate the response of Beta vulgaris (L.) to reflected-light quality. Large-pail field studies included a factorial arrangement of three varieties of B. vulgaris (sugar beet, table beet, and Swiss chard) and reflected-light treatments (using either colored plastic mulch, grass, or bare-soil controls). Greenhouse studies included sugar beet as influenced by either grass or soil surroundings. In all studies, grass was grown in separate containers from B. vulgaris, so there was no root interaction. Grass was clipped regularly to prevent shading and competition for sunlight. Reflected light fromdifferent-colored plasticmulches (red, blue, green, black, clear) did not affect B. vulgaris growth. However, reflected light from the grass reduced the number of leaves in all B. vulgaris varieties such that there were 10 to 14 fewer leaves in B. vulgaris surrounded by grass compared with the soil treatment at 90 d after planting in the field study. Shade avoidance cues from surrounding grass reduced B. vulgaris total leaf area by 49% to 66%, leaf biomass by 21% to 30%, and root biomass by 70% to 72%. Similar results were observed in greenhouse experiments, where the grass treatment reduced sugar beet leaf biomass by 48% to 57% and root biomass by 35% to 64%. Shade avoidance cues have the potential to significantly reduce B. vulgaris yield, even in the absence of direct resource competition from weeds.
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Vol. 67 • No. 3