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Chemistry for Biologists: Photosynthesis

Many people wonder what the difference is between regular lighting and lighting that stimulates plant growth. Although many similar principles apply to general lighting and horticultural lighting, there are very distinct differences. General lighting is heavily biased towards the human vision response and is measured in Lumens. Lighting used to grow plants should be measured with metrics that rate the usefulness of the system to stimulate photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is when green plants convert water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and usable energy in the form of sugars.

The light-independant reactions of photosynthesis occur in the stroma of the chloroplast and involve the conversion of carbon dioxide and other compounds into glucose. The light-independent reactions can be split into three stages, these are carbon fixation, the reduction reactions and finally the regeneration of ribulose bisphosphate. Collectively these stages are known as the Calvin Cycle.

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So how can these factors have an effect on the rate of photosynthesis? Lets start off with the light intensity. When the light intensity is poor, there is a shortage of ATP and NADPH, as these are products from the light dependent reactions. Without these products the light independent reactions can't occur as glycerate 3-phosphate cannot be reduced. Therefore a shortage of these products will limit the rate of photosynthesis. When the carbon dioxide concentration is low, the amount of glycerate 3-phosphate produced is limited as carbon dioxide is needed for its production and therefore the rate of photosynthesis is affected. Finally, many enzymes are involved during the process of photosynthesis. At low temperatures these enzymes work slower. At high temperatures the enzymes no longer work effectively. This affects the rate of the reactions in the Calvin cycle and therefore the rate of photosynthesis will be affected.

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IB Biology Notes - 8.2 Photosynthesis


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