No tree can afford to not compete in the height competition. However, if somehow the trees could arrange a pact of friendship to limit their heights, each tree, and the forest as a whole, could save energy. This is obviously not possible for trees, but if it were, Dawkins concludes, the “Forest of Friendship [would be] more efficient as a forest.”
A Scientific American blog post gushes enthusiastically over Richard Dawkins’ characterisation of the futility of some forms of competition. And yet, with breeders and farmers judging the competition, a field of semi-dwarf wheat or rice is indeed a Forest of Friendship. Indeed, many of the benefits of plant breeding that boost agricultural outputs would not survive long if forced to compete against their fellows that do not enjoy such “beneficial” traits. Beneficial, that is, to us, not to the individual plants.