Stem straightness is related to wood quality and yield. Although important genetic differences in stem straightness among the natural populations of Pinus pinaster
are well established, the main drivers of these differences are not well known. Since the responses of trees to light are key ecological features that induce stem curvature, we hypothesized that populations with better straightness should exhibit lower photomorphogenetic and phototropic sensitivity. We compared three populations to identify the main processes driven by primary and secondary growth that explain their differences in response to light. One-year-old seedlings were grown under two treatments—direct sunlight and lateral light plus shade—for a period of 5 months. The length and the leaning of the stems were measured weekly. The asymmetry of radial growth and compression wood (CW) formation were analyzed in cross-sections. We found differences among the populations in photomorphogenetic and phototropic reactions. However, the population with straighter stems was not characterized by reduced sensitivity to light. Photo(gravi)tropic responses driven by primary growth and gravitropic responses driven by secondary growth explained the kinetics of the stem leaning and CW pattern. Asymmetric radial growth and CW formation did not contribute to the phototropic reactions.
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