The cold stress effect on early vigour and photosynthesis efficiency was evaluated for five industrial chicory varieties with contrasting early vigour. The relationships between the growth and physiological parameters were assessed. The varieties were examined at three growth temperatures: 16 (reference), 8 (intermediate) and 4 A degrees C (stress). The effect was measured using physiological processes (growth, photosynthesis, chlorophyll a fluorescence), and pigment content. The analysis of the measured growth parameters (dry leaf and root mass, and leaf area) indicated that temperature had a significant effect on the varieties, but the overall reaction of the varieties was similar with lowering temperatures. The photosynthesis and chlorophyll a fluorescence measurements revealed significant changes for the photosynthesis (maximum net photosynthesis, quantum efficiency, light compensation point and dark respiration) and chlorophyll a fluorescence parameters (photochemical and non-photochemical quenching) with lowering temperatures for Hera and Eva, two extremes in youth growth. No significant differences could be found between the extremes for the different temperatures. The pigment content analysis revealed significant differences at 4 A degrees C in contrast to 16 and 8 A degrees C, especially for the xanthophyll/carotenoid pool, suggesting a protective role. Subsequently, the relationship between the physiological processes was evaluated using principal component analysis. At 4 A degrees C, 2 principal components were detected with high discriminating power for the varieties and similar classification of the varieties as determined in the growth analysis. This provides a preview on the possible relationships between photosynthesis and growth for industrial chicory at low temperatures.