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Disentangling the Effects of Water Stress on Carbon Acquisition, Vegetative Growth, and Fruit Quality of Peach Trees by Means of the QualiTree Model

Abstract : Climate change projections predict warmer and drier conditions. In general, moderate to severe water stress reduce plant vegetative growth and leaf photosynthesis. However, vegetative and reproductive growths show different sensitivities to water deficit. In fruit trees, water restrictions may have serious implications not only on tree growth and yield, but also on fruit quality, which might be improved. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to understand the complex interrelations among the physiological processes involved in within-tree carbon acquisition and allocation, water uptake and transpiration, organ growth, and fruit composition when affected by water stress. This can be studied using process-based models of plant functioning, which allow assessing the sensitivity of various physiological processes to water deficit and their relative impact on vegetative growth and fruit quality. In the current study, an existing fruit-tree model (QualiTree) was adapted for describing the water stress effects on peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) vegetative growth, fruit size and composition. First, an energy balance calculation at the fruit-bearing shoot level and a water transfer formalization within the plant were integrated into the model. Next, a reduction function of vegetative growth according to tree water status was added to QualiTree. Then, the model was parameterized and calibrated for a late-maturing peach cultivar ("Elberta") under semi-arid conditions, and for three different irrigation practices. Simulated vegetative and fruit growth variability over time was consistent with observed data. Sugar concentrations in fruit flesh were well simulated. Finally, QualiTree allowed for determining the relative importance of photosynthesis and vegetative growth reduction on carbon acquisition, plant growth and fruit quality under water constrains. According to simulations, water deficit impacted vegetative growth first through a direct effect on its sink strength, and; secondly, through an indirect reducing effect on photosynthesis. Fruit composition was moderately affected by water stress. The enhancements performed in the model broadened its predictive capabilities and proved that QualiTree allows for a better understanding of the water stress effects on fruit-tree functioning and might be useful for designing innovative horticultural practices in a changing climate scenario.
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Mitra Rahmati, José Manuel Miras Avalos, Pierre Valsesia, Francoise Lescourret, Michel Génard, et al.. Disentangling the Effects of Water Stress on Carbon Acquisition, Vegetative Growth, and Fruit Quality of Peach Trees by Means of the QualiTree Model. Frontiers in Plant Science, Frontiers, 2018, 9, pp.1-16. ⟨10.3389/fpls.2018.00003⟩. ⟨hal-02625117⟩



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