Tsu-Wei is interested in up-scaling environmental effects from cellular to canopy level using functional-structural plant models and systems analyses. He is specialized in deciphering the triple feedbacks between environmental triggers, dynamic canopy architectures and physiological functions. His current focuses are model-assisted high-throughput phenotyping and acclimation mechanisms optimizing canopy photosynthesis. He holds a professorship of Intensive Plant Food System at Humboldt University of Berlin and DFG Emmy-Noether Program.
Growing plants interact with microclimate created by their neighboring plants continuously by adjusting their morphological and physiological characteristics. In agricultural systems, these plant-plant interactions (PPI) can be interspecific, e.g. intercropping or crop-weed competition, or intraspecific competition. Despite the high frequency of occurrence and the importance of PPI, experimental methods which allow the quantitative dissection of the effects of PPI on plant performance into physiologically interpretable parameters are astonishingly scarce until today. We use recent advances in phenomics and 3D-modelling approach to quantify genotypic competitiveness of 223 winter wheat cultivars and to understand the functional effects of phenotypic plasticity in response to PPI on canopy productivity. Our data clearly showed that plant vigorousness and competitiveness are different traits. In 89% of the studied cultivars, higher PPI induced the production of cheaper leaves (higher specific leaf area, SLA), a characteristic to increase competitiveness. Modern cultivars tend to increase their plasticity of SLA in response to high competition pressure and reducing this plastic response could be a target to enhance plant-plant cooperation and canopy productivity in the future.