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Whole-plant adjustments in coconut ((Cocos nucifera) in response to sink-source imbalance

Mialet-Serra I., Clément-Vidal A., Roupsard O., Jourdan C., Dingkuhn M.. 2008. Tree Physiology, 28 (8) : p. 1199-1209.

DOI: 10.1093/treephys/28.8.1199

Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) is a perennial tropical monocotyledon that produces fruit continuously. The physiological function of the large amounts of sucrose stored in coconut stems is unknown. To test the hypothesis that reserve storage and mobilization enable the crop to adjust to variable sink-source relationships at the scale of the whole plant, we investigated the dynamics of dry matter production, yield and yield components, and concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrate reserves in a coconut plantation on Vanuatu Island in the South Pacific. Two treatments were implemented continuously over 29 months (April 2002 to August 2004): 50% leaf pruning (to reduce the source) and 100% fruit and inflorescence pruning (to reduce the sink). The pruning treatments had little effect on carbohydrate reserves because they affected only petioles, not the main reserve pool in the stem. Both pruning treatments greatly reduced dry matter production of the reproductive compartment, but vegetative growth and development were negligibly affected by treatment and season. Leaf pruning increased radiation-use efficiency (RUE) initially, and fruit pruning greatly reduced RUE throughout the experiment. Changes in RUE were negatively correlated with leaflet soluble sugar concentration, indicating feedback inhibition of photosynthesis. We conclude that vegetative development and growth of coconut show little phenotypic plasticity, assimilate demand for growth being largely independent of a fluctuating assimilate supply. The resulting sink-source imbalances were partly compensated for by transitory reserves and, more importantly, by variable RUE in the short term, and by adjustment of fruit load in the long term. Possible physiological mechanisms are discussed, as well as modeling concepts that may be applied to coconut and similar tree crops.

Mots-clés : cocos nucifera; organe de réserve; saccharose; glucide; physiologie de la nutrition; stockage; vanuatu; sink effect

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