A. Schnepf et al.: Functional-structural plant models as tools for sustainable crop production

Bio Information

Andrea Schnepf

Jan Vanderborght

Guillaume Lobet

Andrea Schnepf is a W2 professor of “Modelling soil, plant root systems and their interactions”, jointly appointed by Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Agrosphere Institute, and the University of Bonn, Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation. Her main research interests include developing mathematical models, soil-plant interactions, rhizosphere processes, and mycorrhizal symbioses.

Jan Vanderborght is director at the Agrosphere Institute of the Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH. He is appointed as professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at the KU Leuven (Belgium). His main interests are water, nutrient, and energy fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere system.

Guillaume Lobet is an assistant professor jointly appointed by Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Agrosphere Institute, and the UCLouvain (BE), Earth and Life Institute. His main research interests include developing whole plant model to better understand interconnected, multi-scale regulations pathways in crop plants.

Presentation Abstract

Functional-structural root models (FSRs) can predict and improve our understanding of the interactions between water and nutrient uptake from soil. In particular, they can relate the dynamic 3D root architecture and soil and root properties with water and nutrient fluxes in the soil-root system. These models are therefore powerful tools that can be used to optimize water and nutrient use efficiency in crop systems.

Mechanistic modelling of the development of the 3D root architecture requires root architectural parameters. Combining AI and data science methods like sensitivity analyses, Bayesian parameter inference, and neural network analyses with FSRs, the information content of different aggregated field root observation types can be identified and hidden information about root architectural traits can be extracted from such data.

Soil properties and soil environmental conditions such as soil water and nutrient availability largely determine the phenotype of root systems. FSRs can be used to predict the development of different phenotypes based on different soil conditions, such as the presence of biopores or dynamically changing soil water potential as well as the feedback root development and soil conditions.

Root phenotypes are closely linked to shoot phenotypes. To additionally consider plant physiological status and the feedback between plant development and carbon availability, functional-structural whole-plant models are currently being developed, coupling the coupled water and carbon flow in the plant (Munch theory) with photosynthesis and the soil-root feedbacks. 

The goal of this talk is to provide examples and illustrate these different applications of functional-structural plant models in the context of sustainable crop production.


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