Book Review

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Ian J. Warrington
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Concepts for Understanding Fruit Trees. 2022. DeJong TM. CAB International, Boston, MA. ISBN 978100620865 (paperback); ISBN 9781800620858 (ebook). 152 pages.

This book takes the complexity of tree growth and development and reduces it to a few underlying concepts that make much of the general behaviour and responses of fruit trees to environmental factors and/or to management practices relatively easy to understand and predict. The preface indicates that the content is targeted at fruit growers, fruit tree enthusiasts, students and fellow scientists. Nonetheless, I suspect the main readership will be students who will relate well to the clear presentations and well-reasoned logic presented within successive chapters. Although primarily written for a horticultural audience, the book will also resonate with others involved with perennial trees including foresters and ecologists.

The initial chapters focus on Energy capture and carbon assimilation (Chapter 2), Uptake and assimilation of nutrient resources (Chapter 3), and The structure of trees (Chapter 4). The clear text (although brief), together with well-selected figures, photographs and tables, provides basic descriptions of photosynthesis, respiration, essential nutrients and their uptake, and the basic anatomy of stems, shoots and roots. Subsequent chapters focus very strongly on the outcomes of the research work done by DeJong and his colleagues and students at UC Davis culminating, over the past 30 years, in the development of growth and yield simulation models primarily for peach and almond. Hence, subsequent chapters focus on The carbohydrate economy of fruit trees (Chapter 5), Understanding the shoot sink (6), Application of shoot growth rules for understanding responses to pruning (7), Understanding the root sink (8), Understanding the fruit sink (9), Understanding the long-term storage sink (10), and Integration of tree source and sink activities (11). A very selective bibliography and an index are presented at the end of the text.

The information provided in chapters 5–11, all previously published, demonstrates the very considerable contributions that DeJong and his colleagues have made to our understanding of fruit tree growth and development in recent years. Their development of dynamic models for fruit tree growth has resulted in their need to conduct original research in areas such as defining the concept of a tree being a collection of semi-autonomous organs, describing the scale and dynamics of carbohydrate storage and use throughout both the active growing season and during the dormant phase, and the nature of bud fate patterns on fruit tree shoots. Although it is clearly stated that the tree modelling is still “work in progress,” the outputs of the current models are impressive and have allowed, as outlined in the final chapter, many concepts relating to tree physiology and to commercial tree management (such as fruit thinning) to be evaluated. Each of the chapters is well-written and the illustrations and tables are appropriate and informative.

In the Preface, DeJong indicates that although he “did not set out to write a book that summarized my academic research career, much of this book has turned out to be essentially that.” Consequently, the text is strongly focused on peach although reference is also made to other pome fruit (apple, pear), stone fruit (almond, cherry, prune, apricot), kiwifruit, grape, fig, and nut crops (walnut, pistachio). Mention of these is, however, relatively minor as they are assumed to follow the same principles as outlined in the specific examples that are presented throughout the book. The research covered is also strongly influenced by the fruit-growing conditions in California, so readers in climates with harsher winters and milder temperate conditions will need to “recalibrate” their thinking about the related responses of fruit crops in their local regions – even though the basic principles will remain unchanged.

The main shortcoming of this text is the bibliography that, aside from reference to a few general pomology texts, comprises almost entirely of references that relate to the outputs of DeJong’s group. It would have been helpful to have included some other selected papers that reference areas referred to in the book but not necessarily the focus of that group – areas such as light interception and distribution within canopies, juvenility, and rootstocks.

This text will be a welcome addition to any pomologist’s reading list. If nothing else, it will challenge some existing conventions and introduce some new perspectives for those learning about and working on fruit trees.

Ian J. Warrington ISHS Fellow and Honorary Member

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