Functional structural modelling of crop systems
In days of global climate change and population growth, the demand on food production is ever increasing. In order to be able to feed the future world population, plant scientists and agronomists need to find new ways to produce more with less resources.
Instead of having one centralised center of decision, like animals, plants have thousands of de-centralised ones, the meristems. Each one of them is capable of responding to signals in order to adapt their structure, growth, development and function. Such response is done by integrating both exogenous and endogenous factors. On the one hand, exogenous factors inform the meristems about their direct environment so they can adopt the best strategy to optimise the capture of surrounding ressources. On the other hand, the endogenous factors informs each meristem about the needs and status of the other organs (fig. 1C). Ultimately, the local integration of both leads to complex, diverse and plastic growth and developmental patterns. Such patterns are of outmost importance for the plant, as they will define its ability to survive in potentially challenging environment.
Information transfer is therefore at the very center of most of plant physiological processes (fig. 1A). This transfer can be of various nature. For instance, information about the water status of the plant is known to be conveyed both by physical (e.g. changes in water pressure in different plant organs, such as roots, leaves or xylem) and biochemical (e.g. production, transport and degradation of abscissic acid, ABA) processes (fig. 1B).
The aim of the research unit to use modelling tools (i) to understand how various signals that carry information are interacting and being conveyed and integrated at the plant level, (ii) to amplify discrete physiological knowledge into functional plant processes and (iii) to upscale knowledge from the plant to the crop scale.