Model-assisted evaluation of crop load effects on stem diameter variations and fruit growth in peach
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The paper identifies and quantifies how crop load influences plant physiological variables that determine stem diameter variations to better understand the effect of crop load on drought stress indicators.
Stem diameter (D stem) variations have extensively been applied in optimisation strategies for plant-based irrigation scheduling in fruit trees. Two D stem derived water status indicators, maximum daily shrinkage (MDS) and daily growth rate (DGR), are however influenced by other factors such as crop load, making it difficult to unambiguously use these indicators in practical irrigation applications. Furthermore, crop load influences the growth of individual fruits, because of competition for assimilates. This paper aims to explain the effect of crop load on DGR, MDS and individual fruit growth in peach using a water and carbon transport model that includes simulation of stem diameter variations. This modelling approach enabled to relate differences in crop load to differences in xylem and phloem water potential components. As such, crop load effects on DGR were attributed to effects on the stem phloem turgor pressure. The effect of crop load on MDS could be explained by the plant water status, the phloem carbon concentration and the elasticity of the tissue. The influence on fruit growth could predominantly be explained by the effect on the early fruit growth stages.
KeywordsPrunus persica (L.) Batsch Dendrometers Stem radius changes Carbon relations Water relations Mechanistic modelling
Author contributions statement
Tom De Swaef defined the research questions, developed the model, conducted the model simulations and wrote the manuscript. Carmen D. Mellisho conducted the field experiments, collected stem diameter and water potential data. Annelies Baert and Veerle De Schepper assisted in definition of the research questions, the model development and the writing of the manuscript. Arturo Torrecillas and Wenceslao Conejero supervised the field experiments and data collection. Kathy Steppe supervised the definition of research questions, the model development and simulations, and the writing of the manuscript.
The authors thank the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT) for the Ph.D. funding granted to Annelies Baert (IWT/SB-91337), the Special Research Fund (BOF) from Ghent University for the Post-Doc funding granted to Veerle De Schepper (BOF12/PDO/027), the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for the grant to Carmen D Mellisho. Part of the research was financed by Fundación Séneca, Centro de Coordinación de la Investigación de la CARM. No. 11981/PI/09.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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