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Effect of source/sink ratios on yield components, growth dynamics and structural characteristics of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) bunches

Pallas B., Mialet-Serra I., Rouan L., Clément-Vidal A., Caliman J.P., Dingkuhn M.. 2013. Tree Physiology, 33 (4) : p. 409-424.

DOI: 10.1093/treephys/tpt015

Source/sink ratios are known to be one of the main determinants of oil palm growth and development. A long-term experiment (9 years) was conducted in Indonesia on mature oil palms subjected to continuous bunch ablation and partial defoliation treatments to artificially modify source/sink ratios. During the experiment, all harvested bunches were dissected and phenological measurements were carried out to analyse the effect of source/sink ratios on yield components explaining variations in bunch number, the number of fruits per bunch and oil dry weight per fruit. An integrative variable (supply/ demand ratio) describing the ratio between the assimilate supply from sources and the growing organ demand for carbohydrate was computed for each plant on a daily basis from observations of the number of developing organs and their sink strength, and of climate variables. Defoliation and bunch ablation affected the bunch number and the fruit number per bunch. Variations in bunch number per month were mainly due to variations in the fraction of aborted inflorescence and in the ratio between female and male inflorescences. Under fluctuating trophic conditions, variations in fruit number per bunch resulted both from changes in fruit-set and in the number of branches (rachillae) per inflorescence. For defoliated plants, the decrease in the number of developing reproductive sinks appeared to be sufficient to maintain fruit weight and oil concentration at the control level, without any major decrease in the concentration of non-structural carbohydrate reserves. Computation of the supply/demand ratio revealed that each yield component had a specific phase of sensitivity to supply/demand ratios during inflorescence development. Establishing quantitative relationships between supply/demand ratios, competition and yield components is the first step towards a functional model for oil palm.

Mots-clés : elaeis guineensis; indonésie

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