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J Exp Bot. 2010 May;61(8):2101-15. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp345. Epub 2009 Dec 8.

Functional-structural plant modelling: a new versatile tool in crop science.

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Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Wageningen University, PO Box 430, 6700 AK, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Plants react to their environment and to management interventions by adjusting physiological functions and structure. Functional-structural plant models (FSPM), combine the representation of three-dimensional (3D) plant structure with selected physiological functions. An FSPM consists of an architectural part (plant structure) and a process part (plant functioning). The first deals with (i) the types of organs that are initiated and the way these are connected (topology), (ii) co-ordination in organ expansion dynamics, and (iii) geometrical variables (e.g. leaf angles, leaf curvature). The process part may include any physiological or physical process that affects plant growth and development (e.g. photosynthesis, carbon allocation). This paper addresses the following questions: (i) how are FSPM constructed, and (ii) for what purposes are they useful? Static, architectural models are distinguished from dynamic models. Static models are useful in order to study the significance of plant structure, such as light distribution in the canopy, gas exchange, remote sensing, pesticide spraying studies, and interactions between plants and biotic agents. Dynamic models serve quantitatively to integrate knowledge on plant functions and morphology as modulated by environment. Applications are in the domain of plant sciences, for example the study of plant plasticity as related to changes in the red:far red ratio of light in the canopy. With increasing availability of genetic information, FSPM will play a role in the assessment of the significance towards plant performance of variation in genetic traits across environments. In many crops, growers actively manipulate plant structure. FSPM is a promising tool to explore divergent management strategies.

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