Quantifying the motor power of trees

Abstract : Trees have a motor system to enable upright growth in the field of gravity. This motor function is taken on by reaction wood, a special kind of wood that typically develops in leaning axes and generates mechanical force during its formation, curving up the stem and counteracting the effect of gravity or other mechanical disturbances. Quantifying the mechanical stress induced in wood during maturation is essential to many areas of research ranging from tree architecture to functional genomics. Here, we present a new method for quantifying wood maturation stress. It consists of tilting a tree, tying it to a stake, letting it grow in tilted position, and recording the change in stem curvature that occurs when the stem is released from the stake. A mechanical model is developed to make explicit the link between the change in curvature, maturation strain and morphological traits of the stem section. A parametric study is conducted to analyse how different parameters influence the change in curvature. This method is applied to the estimation of maturation strain in two different datasets. Results show that the method is able to detect genotypic variations in motor power expression. As predicted by the model, we observe that the change in stem curvature is correlated to stem diameter and diameter growth. In contrast, wood maturation strain is independent from these dimensional effects, and is suitable as an intrinsic parameter characterising the magnitude of the plant's gravitropic reaction.
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Tancrède Alméras, Barbara Ghislain, Bruno Clair, Amra Secerovic, Gilles Pilate, et al.. Quantifying the motor power of trees. Trees - Structure and Function, Springer Verlag, 2018, 32 (3), pp.689-702. ⟨10.1007/s00468-018-1662-7⟩. ⟨hal-01897788⟩

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