A split plot 3 by 3 experiment was designed to investigate and distinguish the relationships among production of primary metabolites (soluble sugar and starch), secondary metabolites (total phenolics, TP; total flavonoids, TF) and leaf gas exchange of three varieties of the Malaysian medicinal herb Labisia pumila Blume, namely the varieties alata, pumila and lanceolata, under three levels of CO₂ enrichment (400, 800 and 1,200 µmol mol⁻¹) for 15 weeks. The treatment effects were solely contributed by CO₂ enrichment levels; no varietal differences were observed. As CO₂ levels increased from 400 to 1,200 µmol mol⁻¹, the production of carbohydrates also increased steadily, especially for starch more than soluble sugar (sucrose). TF and TP content, simultaneously, reached their peaks under 1,200 µmol exposure, followed by 800 and 400 µmol mol⁻¹. Net photosynthesis (A) and quantum efficiency of photosystem II (f(v)/f(m)) were also enhanced as CO₂ increased from 400 to 1,200 µmol mol⁻¹. Leaf gas exchange characteristics displayed a significant positive relationship with the production of secondary metabolites and carbohydrate contents. The increase in production of TP and TFs were manifested by high C/N ratio and low protein content in L. pumila seedlings, and accompanied by reduction in cholorophyll content that exhibited very significant negative relationships with total soluble sugar, starch and total non structural carbohydrate.
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