In the field, the amount of sunlight varies greatly over the day and season as well as across climates. Several studies, mostly with apples, have examined carbohydrate partitioning as affected by light level at specific times or over a full season. Based on these studies with apples and cherries, it appears that low light levels reduce carbohydrate production of nonfruiting trees and thus tend to reduce partitioning to roots compared to leaves and shoots. This may be interpreted as a plant response to a reduced need for water and nutrients from the soil and a need to grow shoots to find more light (called "etiolation" in the extreme case).
With fruiting trees, the effects can be complex. If fruit set has already occurred, low light reduces fruit growth and especially vegetative growth, as the fruit compete strongly for carbohydrates. If, however, low light occurs early in the season before fruit are set, growing shoots tend to be stronger competitors and fruit set may be reduced, even leading to complete defruiting. Then, partitioning develops as just described for nonfruiting trees.
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