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Tree architecture and functioning facing multispecies environments: We have gone only halfway in fruit‐trees

Abstract : Plant architecture analysis aims at deciphering the relative roles of endogenous processes and exogenous above- and belowground factors in the morphological development and functioning of a plant. In their seminal book on tropical trees and forests, Hallé et al. (1978) considered a few simple plants traits such as branch orientation and position of sexuality and established the main concepts of plant architecture: architectural unit as the basic growth strategy of a plant, architectural model as the growth pattern that determines the consecutive architectural phases, and reiteration as the repetition of a part or the whole of the architectural unit. These concepts were applied on a wide range of biological types, herbs, shrubs, and trees (Bell, 2008) including extinct forms (Chomicki et al., 2017). Hallé and co-workers (1978) were envisaging two complementary and consecutive phases in architectural studies. The first was “to remove [the tree] from its natural habitat and study it in isolation... Isolated in this way one can study the tree from the point of view of the geneticist and developmental morphologist” (p. VIII). The second phase was to “return to the forest, away from our optimized environment which has been so productive of new information... Now we can ask the question, how, in fact, does it grow in the vigorously competitive environment of the forest itself ?” (p. IX). The focus of this essay will be on trees grown commercially for fruit, hereafter referred to as fruit trees, which are characterized by a unique pattern of biomass allocation compared to the trees native in forests, hereafter referred to as forest trees, whether grown for timber or not, with more carbon allocated to reproductive growth in the former compared to the latter (Lauri et al., 2019). I depart from the fact that, unlike what was developed for forest trees, the implementation of architectural concepts for fruit trees largely remains at the first phase of architectural studies promoted by Hallé et al. (1978). That is, studies are mostly focused on endogenous processes governing tree growth and functioning, and we lack knowledge of the responses of fruit trees in complex systems that include more competitive interactions with neighboring plants. I assert that this lack of knowledge is related to the way the fruit tree is conceptualized —as a tree selected by the breeder and manipulated by the farmer to fulfill the objective of fruit production in artificial and simplified agrosystems. With the ongoing trend toward more biodiversified agrosystems, there is an urgent need to develop studies on how complex environments affect the endogenous processes governing fruit-tree architecture and functioning and eventually fruit production.
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Contributor : Pierre-Eric Lauri <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 12:08:26 PM
Last modification on : Monday, May 10, 2021 - 1:09:46 PM

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Pierre-Éric Lauri. Tree architecture and functioning facing multispecies environments: We have gone only halfway in fruit‐trees. American Journal of Botany, Botanical Society of America, 2021, 108 (1), pp.3-7. ⟨10.1002/ajb2.1598⟩. ⟨hal-03138625⟩



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