Plant growth is a complex and dynamic process. It is highly regulated and depends on a network of factors. In contrast to most animals, plants grow throughout their entire life. Plant biomass production is driven by photosynthesis which provides energy, raw materials and food for animals. While growth processes in animals are largely deterministic, they are more flexible in plants. This flexibility is an important feature with which plants can dynamically adjust their performance to fluctuating environmental conditions against the background of small-scale intrinsic temporal or spatial organ growth patterns. This dynamic growth potential can be utilized on demand, such as in etiolating, shade-avoiding seedlings, in plants that increase their root-shoot ratio in nutrient-limited situations or in plant organs that show directed growth responses towards or away from vectorial factors such as light, gravity or wind. The temporal dynamics of such acclimation processes; the differential distribution of growth across different plant organs or within single organs or the temporal kinetics with which such growth processes interact with endogenous control mechanisms of the plant (e.g. gene expression, metabolism) are largely unknown. As a crystallizing point for the investigation of growth dynamics, the interaction of growth and photosynthesis will be treated herein.
Plants are photoautotropic organisms, which gain energy by conversion of light to chemical energy. Apart from this gain in energy, plants only depend on uptake of water, mineral nutrients, oxygen and CO2 to sustain growth. All of the necessary uptake processes take place across plant interfaces that are exposed to the environment. The constant need for the plant to increase its surface to sustain further growth implies that an analysis of its surface expansion processes is a good proxy for a general performance analysis of the dynamic plant in its dynamic environment.
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