Background and Aims
The relationship between Septoria tritici, a splash-dispersed disease, and its host is complex because of the interactions between the dynamic plant architecture and the vertical progress of the disease. The aim of this study was to test the capacity of a coupled virtual wheat–Septoria tritici epidemic model (Septo3D) to simulate disease progress on the different leaf layers for contrasted sowing density treatments.
A field experiment was performed with winter wheat ‘Soissons’ grown at three contrasted densities. Plant architecture was characterized to parameterize the wheat model, and disease dynamic was monitored to compare with simulations. Three simulation scenarios, differing in the degree of detail with which plant variability of development was represented, were defined.
Despite architectural differences between density treatments, few differences were found in disease progress; only the lower-density treatment resulted in a slightly higher rate of lesion development. Model predictions were consistent with field measurements but did not reproduce the higher rate of lesion progress in the low density. The canopy reconstruction scenario in which inter-plant variability was taken into account yielded the best agreement between measured and simulated epidemics. Simulations performed with the canopy represented by a population of the same average plant deviated strongly from the observations.
It was possible to compare the predicted and measured epidemics on detailed variables, supporting the hypothesis that the approach is able to provide new insights into the processes and plant traits that contribute to the epidemics. On the other hand, the complex and dynamic responses to sowing density made it difficult to test the model precisely and to disentangle the various aspects involved. This could be overcome by comparing more contrasted and/or simpler canopy architectures such as those resulting from quasi-isogenic lines differing by single architectural traits.