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Branch Development Controls Leaf Area Dynamics in Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Growing in Drying Soil

Annals of botany 2006 v.98 no.1 pp. 175-185
Vitis vinifera, branches, carbon, crop quality, cultivars, drying, gas exchange, grapes, greenhouses, leaf area, leaf development, leaves, organogenesis, photosynthesis, plant adaptation, shoots, soil water, soil water deficit, sugar content, water stress, France
BACKGROUND: and Aims Soil water deficit is a major abiotic stress with severe consequences for the development, productivity and quality of crops. However, it is considered a positive factor in grapevine management (Vitis vinifera), as it has been shown to increase grape quality. The effects of soil water deficit on organogenesis, morphogenesis and gas exchange in the shoot were investigated. METHODS: Shoot organogenesis was analysed by distinguishing between the various steps in the development of the main axis and branches. Several experiments were carried out in pots, placed in a greenhouse or outside, in southern France. Soil water deficits of various intensities were imposed during vegetative development of the shoots of two cultivars ('Syrah' and 'Grenache N'). Key Results All developmental processes were inhibited by soil water deficit, in an intensity-dependent manner, and sensitivity to water stress was process-dependent. Quantitative relationships with soil water were established for all processes. No difference was observed between the two cultivars for any criterion. The number of leaves on branches was particularly sensitive to soil water deficit, which rapidly and strongly reduced the rate of leaf appearance on developing branches. This response was not related to carbon availability, photosynthetic activity or the soluble sugar content of young expanding leaves. The potential number of branches was not a limiting factor for shoot development. CONCLUSIONS: The particularly high sensitivity to soil water deficit of leaf appearance on branches indicates that this process is a major determinant of the adaptation of plant leaf area to soil water deficit. The origin of this particular developmental response to soil water deficit is unclear, but it seems to be related to constitutive characteristics of branches rather than to competition for assimilates between axes differing in sink strength.