Vegetative propagation techniques such as grafting can be used, in conjunction with field studies, to decouple the relative effects of age and size on tree metabolism and growth. Despite interest in this approach, little attention has been paid to the best metrics for assessing the growth performance of grafted plants over time. Based on an analysis of the grafting literature and our own data, we show that the choice of metrics to assess tree growth can entirely change the conclusions reached about the relative importance of age versus size. We recommend that absolute as well as relative rates of growth are calculated and that scion size be standardized as much as possible at the start of the experiment. Once proper metrics are chosen, all of the available published evidence is largely concordant with two concepts: (1) age-mediated controls of tree growth are likely to be important during the first few years of a tree's life (before phase change); and (2) after the first few years of a tree's life, size-mediated factors largely prevail over age-mediated factors in determining tree growth rates. We found no support for theories invoking age-mediated sink limitations in old trees.
- Age-related processes
- Hydraulic limitation hypothesis
- Relative growth rate
- Size-related processes