High temperature is one of the major limiting factors for cool season crops like potato in many parts of the world. This problem is more aggravated in early season planting of potato crop. This study was conducted to evaluate the performance of five potato cultivars (Solanum tuberosum L. cultivars Kufri jyoti, Kufri megha, Kufri pokraj, Rangpuria and Badami) under normal (mid October–mid January) and early season (mid August–late October) conditions during two consecutive years in terms of carbon assimilation, activities of antioxidant enzymes and tuber yield. Temperature during growth of early season crop remained 2–14°C higher than in the normal season crop, which imposed severe heat stress on early season crop. However, this heat stress in early season crop caused several folds increase in the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which had strong positive correlation with tuber yield. Although tuber yield of all tested cultivars was less in early season than in normal season; nonetheless cultivars Kufri megha and Rangpuria performed better in early season planting owing to higher net photosynthesis, carotenoid contents, membrane stability, and activities of enzymatic antioxidant enzymes. In crux, carotenoids, activities of enzymatic antioxidants, carbon assimilation and membrane stability may be used as physiological markers in future breeding programs aimed to improve the heat resistance in potato.
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