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Ann Bot. 2007 Aug;100(2):347-57.

Clarifying the effects of dwarfing rootstock on vegetative and reproductive growth during tree development: a study on apple trees.

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INRA, UMR Développement et Amélioration des plantes, Equipe Architecture et Fonctionnement des Espèces Fruitières, 2 Place Pierre Viala, Montpellier F-34060 Cedex 1, France.



Despite the widespread use of dwarfing rootstocks in the fruit-tree industry, their impact on tree architectural development and possible role in the within-tree balance between growth and flowering are still poorly understood, in particular during the early years of growth. The present study addressed this question in apple trees, through a detailed analysis of shoot populations, i.e. both vegetative and flowering shoots, during tree development.


Architectural databases were constructed for trees of two cultivars that were either own-rooted or grafted on dwarfing rootstock. Within-tree shoot demographics and annual shoot characteristics, i.e. their dimensions, number of laterals and flowering, were observed from the first to the fifth year of growth and compared among scion/root system combinations.


Differences in axis demographics appeared among scion/root system combinations after the second year of growth. Differences were found (a) in the number of long axes and (b) the number of medium axes. Dwarfing rootstock reduced the total number of axes developed in a tree, and this reduction resulted from proportionally more medium axes and spurs than long axes. The life span of spurs was also shortened. These phenomena appeared after an increase in flowering that started in the second year of growth and involved both axillary and terminal positions. Flowering regularity was also increased in grafted trees.


These results confirm that the number of long shoots and flowering potential depend on the cultivar. They indicate that tree architectural plasticity in response to its root system mainly derives from the number of medium shoots developed and follows priorities within the whole tree axis population. There was also evidence for dwarfing rootstock involvement in adjusting the flowering abundance and that differences in flowering occurrence take precedence over those regarding vegetative growth during tree development.

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