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1.  A Functional and Structural Mongolian Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) Model Integrating Architecture, Biomass and Effects of Precipitation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43531.
Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal tree species in the network of Three-North Shelterbelt for windbreak and sand stabilisation in China. The functions of shelterbelts are highly correlated with the architecture and eco-physiological processes of individual tree. Thus, model-assisted analysis of canopy architecture and function dynamic in Mongolian Scots pine is of value for better understanding its role and behaviour within shelterbelt ecosystems in these arid and semiarid regions. We present here a single-tree functional and structural model, derived from the GreenLab model, which is adapted for young Mongolian Scots pines by incorporation of plant biomass production, allocation, allometric rules and soil water dynamics. The model is calibrated and validated based on experimental measurements taken on Mongolian Scots pines in 2007 and 2006 under local meteorological conditions. Measurements include plant biomass, topology and geometry, as well as soil attributes and standard meteorological data. After calibration, the model allows reconstruction of three-dimensional (3D) canopy architecture and biomass dynamics for trees from one- to six-year-old at the same site using meteorological data for the six years from 2001 to 2006. Sensitivity analysis indicates that rainfall variation has more influence on biomass increment than on architecture, and the internode and needle compartments and the aboveground biomass respond linearly to increases in precipitation. Sensitivity analysis also shows that the balance between internode and needle growth varies only slightly within the range of precipitations considered here. The model is expected to be used to investigate the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in other regions with different soils and climates.
PMCID: PMC3425476  PMID: 22927982
2.  Characterization of the interactions between architecture and source–sink relationships in winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus) using the GreenLab model 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(5):765-779.
Background and Aims
This study aimed to characterize the interaction between architecture and source–sink relationships in winter oilseed rape (WOSR): do the costs of ramification compromise the source–sink ratio during seed filling? The GreenLab model is a good candidate to address this question because it has been already used to describe interactions between source–sink relationships and architecture for other species. However, its adaptation to WOSR is a challenge because of the complexity of its developmental scheme, especially during the reproductive phase.
Equations were added in GreenLab to compute expansion delays for ramification, flowering of each axis and photosynthesis of pods including the energetic cost of oil synthesis. Experimental field data were used to estimate morphological parameters while source–sink parameters of the model were estimated by adjustment of model outputs to the data. Ecophysiological outputs were used to assess the sources/sink relationships during the whole growth cycle.
Key Results
First results indicated that, at the plant scale, the model correctly simulates the dynamics of organ growth. However, at the organ scale, errors were observed that could be explained either by secondary growth that was not incorporated or by uncertainties in morphological parameters (durations of expansion and life). Ecophysiological outputs highlighted the dramatic negative impact of ramification on the source–sink ratio, as well as the decrease in this ratio during seed filling despite pod envelope photosynthesis that allowed significant biomass production to be maintained.
This work is a promising first step in the construction of a structure–function model for a plant as complex as WOSR. Once tested for other environments and/or genotypes, the model can be used for studies on WOSR architectural plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3077979  PMID: 20980324
Biological system modelling; source–sink relationships; ramification; GreenLab model; energetic cost; oleaginous seeds; Brassica napus; winter oilseed rape
3.  Correlation between dynamic tomato fruit-set and source–sink ratio: a common relationship for different plant densities and seasons? 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(5):805-815.
Background and Aims
It is widely accepted that fruit-set in plants is related to source–sink ratio. Despite its critical importance to yield, prediction of fruit-set remains an ongoing problem in crop models. Functional–structural plant models are potentially able to simulate organ-level plasticity of plants. To predict fruit-set, the quantitative link between source–sink ratio and fruit-set probability is analysed here via a functional–structural plant model, GreenLab.
Two experiments, each with four plant densities, were carried out in a solar greenhouse during two growth seasons (started in spring and autumn). Dynamic fruit-set probability was estimated by frequent observation on inflorescences. Source and sink parameter values were obtained by fitting GreenLab outputs for the biomass of plant parts (lamina, petiole, internode, fruit), at both organ and plant level, to corresponding destructive measurements at six dates from real plants. The dynamic source–sink ratio was calculated as the ratio between biomass production and plant demand (sum of all organ sink strength) per growth cycle, both being outputs of the model.
Key Results and Conclusions
Most sink parameters were stable over multiple planting densities and seasons. From planting, source–sink ratio increased in the vegetative stage and reached a peak after fruit-set commenced, followed by a decrease of leaf appearance rate. Fruit-set probability was correlated with the source–sink ratio after the appearance of flower buds. The relationship between fruit-set probability and the most correlated source–sink ratio could be quantified by a single regression line for both experiments. The current work paves the way to predicting dynamic fruit-set using a functional structure model.
PMCID: PMC3077983  PMID: 21183453
Tomato; Solanum lycopersicum; fruit-set probability; time step; source–sink ratio; sink strength; functional–structural plant model; inverse modelling; plant plasticity
4.  A stochastic model of tree architecture and biomass partitioning: application to Mongolian Scots pines 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(5):781-792.
Background and Aims
Mongolian Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) is one of the principal species used for windbreak and sand stabilization in arid and semi-arid areas in northern China. A model-assisted analysis of its canopy architectural development and functions is valuable for better understanding its behaviour and roles in fragile ecosystems. However, due to the intrinsic complexity and variability of trees, the parametric identification of such models is currently a major obstacle to their evaluation and their validation with respect to real data. The aim of this paper was to present the mathematical framework of a stochastic functional–structural model (GL2) and its parameterization for Mongolian Scots pines, taking into account inter-plant variability in terms of topological development and biomass partitioning.
In GL2, plant organogenesis is determined by the realization of random variables representing the behaviour of axillary or apical buds. The associated probabilities are calibrated for Mongolian Scots pines using experimental data including means and variances of the numbers of organs per plant in each order-based class. The functional part of the model relies on the principles of source–sink regulation and is parameterized by direct observations of living trees and the inversion method using measured data for organ mass and dimensions.
Key Results
The final calibration accuracy satisfies both organogenetic and morphogenetic processes. Our hypothesis for the number of organs following a binomial distribution is found to be consistent with the real data. Based on the calibrated parameters, stochastic simulations of the growth of Mongolian Scots pines in plantations are generated by the Monte Carlo method, allowing analysis of the inter-individual variability of the number of organs and biomass partitioning. Three-dimensional (3D) architectures of young Mongolian Scots pines were simulated for 4-, 6- and 8-year-old trees.
This work provides a new method for characterizing tree structures and biomass allocation that can be used to build a 3D virtual Mongolian Scots pine forest. The work paves the way for bridging the gap between a single-plant model and a stand model.
PMCID: PMC3077980  PMID: 21062760
Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica; functional–structural plant model; canopy architecture; three-dimensional; forest canopy; virtual plant; GreenLab, parameterization
5.  Does the Structure–Function Model GREENLAB Deal with Crop Phenotypic Plasticity Induced by Plant Spacing? A Case Study on Tomato 
Annals of Botany  2008;101(8):1195-1206.
Background and Aims
Plant growth models able to simulate phenotypic plasticity are increasingly required because (1) they should enable better predictions of the observed variations in crop production, yield and quality, and (2) their parameters are expected to have a more robust genetic basis, with possible implications for selection of quantitative traits such as growth- and allocation-related processes. The structure–function plant model, GREENLAB, simulates resource-dependent plasticity of plant architecture. Evidence for its generality has been previously reported, but always for plants grown in a limited range of environments. This paper aims to test the model concept to its limits by using plant spacing as a means to generate a gradient of competition for light, and by using a new crop species, tomato, known to exhibit a strong photomorphogenetic response.
A greenhouse experiment was carried out with three homogeneous planting densities (plant spacing = 0·3, 0·6 and 1 m). Detailed records of plant development, plant architecture and organ growth were made throughout the growing period. Model calibration was performed for each situation using a statistical optimization procedure (multi-fitting).
Key Results and Conclusions
Obvious limitations of the present version of the model appeared to account fully for the plant plasticity induced by inter-plant competition for light. A lack of stability was identified for some model parameters at very high planting density. In particular, those parameters characterizing organ sink strengths and governing light interception proved to be environment-dependent. Remarkably, however, responses of the parameter values concerned were consistent with actual growth measurements and with previously reported results. Furthermore, modifications of total biomass production and of allocation patterns induced by the planting-density treatments were accurately simulated using the sets of optimized parameters. These results demonstrate that the overall model structure is potentially able to reproduce the observed plant plasticity and suggest that sound biologically based adaptations could overcome the present model limitations. Potential options for model improvement are proposed, and the possibility of using the kernel algorithm currently available as a fitting tool to build up more sophisticated model versions is advocated.
PMCID: PMC2710282  PMID: 18199575
Functional–structural models; GREENLAB; phenotypic plasticity; planting density; competition; source–sink relationship; parameter stability; Solanum lycopersicum
6.  Computing Competition for Light in the GREENLAB Model of Plant Growth: A Contribution to the Study of the Effects of Density on Resource Acquisition and Architectural Development 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1207-1219.
Background and Aims
The dynamical system of plant growth GREENLAB was originally developed for individual plants, without explicitly taking into account interplant competition for light. Inspired by the competition models developed in the context of forest science for mono-specific stands, we propose to adapt the method of crown projection onto the x–y plane to GREENLAB, in order to study the effects of density on resource acquisition and on architectural development.
The empirical production equation of GREENLAB is extrapolated to stands by computing the exposed photosynthetic foliage area of each plant. The computation is based on the combination of Poisson models of leaf distribution for all the neighbouring plants whose crown projection surfaces overlap. To study the effects of density on architectural development, we link the proposed competition model to the model of interaction between functional growth and structural development introduced by Mathieu (2006, PhD Thesis, Ecole Centrale de Paris, France).
Key Results and Conclusions
The model is applied to mono-specific field crops and forest stands. For high-density crops at full cover, the model is shown to be equivalent to the classical equation of field crop production ( Howell and Musick, 1985, in Les besoins en eau des cultures; Paris: INRA Editions). However, our method is more accurate at the early stages of growth (before cover) or in the case of intermediate densities. It may potentially account for local effects, such as uneven spacing, variation in the time of plant emergence or variation in seed biomass. The application of the model to trees illustrates the expression of plant plasticity in response to competition for light. Density strongly impacts on tree architectural development through interactions with the source–sink balances during growth. The effects of density on tree height and radial growth that are commonly observed in real stands appear as emerging properties of the model.
PMCID: PMC2710279  PMID: 18037666
Functional–structural plant models; GREENLAB; competition for light; Beer–Lambert Law; plant plasticity; dynamical system
7.  Parameter Optimization and Field Validation of the Functional–Structural Model GREENLAB for Maize at Different Population Densities 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1185-1194.
Background and Aims
Plant population density (PPD) influences plant growth greatly. Functional–structural plant models such as GREENLAB can be used to simulate plant development and growth and PPD effects on plant functioning and architectural behaviour can be investigated. This study aims to evaluate the ability of GREENLAB to predict maize growth and development at different PPDs.
Two field experiments were conducted on irrigated fields in the North China Plain with a block design of four replications. Each experiment included three PPDs: 2·8, 5·6 and 11·1 plants m−2. Detailed observations were made on the dimensions and fresh biomass of above-ground plant organs for each phytomer throughout the seasons. Growth stage-specific target files (a description of plant organ weight and dimension according to plant topological structure) were established from the measured data required for GREENLAB parameterization. Parameter optimization was conducted using a generalized least square method for the entire growth cycles for all PPDs and years. Data from in situ plant digitization were used to establish geometrical symbol files for organs that were then applied to translate model output directly into 3-D representation for each time step of the model execution.
Key Results
The analysis indicated that the parameter values of organ sink variation function, and the values of most of the relative sink strength parameters varied little among years and PPDs, but the biomass production parameter, computed plant projection surface and internode relative sink strength varied with PPD. Simulations of maize plant growth based on the fitted parameters were reasonably good as indicated by the linearity and slopes similar to unity for the comparison of simulated and observed values. Based on the parameter values fitted from different PPDs, shoot (including vegetative and reproductive parts of the plant) and cob fresh biomass for other PPDs were simulated. Three-dimensional representation of individual plant and plant stand from the model output with two contrasting PPDs were presented with which the PPD effect on plant growth can be easily recognized.
This study showed that GREENLAB model has the ability to capture plant plasticity induced by PPD. The relatively stable parameter values strengthened the hypothesis that one set of equations can govern dynamic organ growth. With further validation, this model can be used for agronomic applications such as yield optimization.
PMCID: PMC2710275  PMID: 17921525
Functional–structural plant model; GREENLAB; plant architecture; source–sink relationship; plant population density; maize (Zea mays); model parameterization
8.  The Derivation of Sink Functions of Wheat Organs using the GREENLAB Model 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1099-1108.
Background and Aims
In traditional crop growth models assimilate production and partitioning are described with empirical equations. In the GREENLAB functional–structural model, however, allocation of carbon to different kinds of organs depends on the number and relative sink strengths of growing organs present in the crop architecture. The aim of this study is to generate sink functions of wheat (Triticum aestivum) organs by calibrating the GREENLAB model using a dedicated data set, consisting of time series on the mass of individual organs (the ‘target data’).
An experiment was conducted on spring wheat (Triticum aestivum, ‘Minaret’), in a growth chamber from, 2004 to, 2005. Four harvests were made of six plants each to determine the size and mass of individual organs, including the root system, leaf blades, sheaths, internodes and ears of the main stem and different tillers. Leaf status (appearance, expansion, maturity and death) of these 24 plants was recorded. With the structures and mass of organs of four individual sample plants, the GREENLAB model was calibrated using a non-linear least-square-root fitting method, the aim of which was to minimize the difference in mass of the organs between measured data and model output, and to provide the parameter values of the model (the sink strengths of organs of each type, age and tiller order, and two empirical parameters linked to biomass production).
Key Results and Conclusions
The masses of all measured organs from one plant from each harvest were fitted simultaneously. With estimated parameters for sink and source functions, the model predicted the mass and size of individual organs at each position of the wheat structure in a mechanistic way. In addition, there was close agreement between experimentally observed and simulated values of leaf area index.
PMCID: PMC2710274  PMID: 18045794
Wheat; Triticum aestivum ‘Minaret’; tiller; GREENLAB; organ mass; functional–structural model; model calibration; multi-fitting; source–sink
9.  AmapSim: A Structural Whole-plant Simulator Based on Botanical Knowledge and Designed to Host External Functional Models 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1125-1138.
Background and Aims
AmapSim is a tool that implements a structural plant growth model based on a botanical theory and simulates plant morphogenesis to produce accurate, complex and detailed plant architectures. This software is the result of more than a decade of research and development devoted to plant architecture. New advances in the software development have yielded plug-in external functions that open up the simulator to functional processes.
The simulation of plant topology is based on the growth of a set of virtual buds whose activity is modelled using stochastic processes. The geometry of the resulting axes is modelled by simple descriptive functions. The potential growth of each bud is represented by means of a numerical value called physiological age, which controls the value for each parameter in the model. The set of possible values for physiological ages is called the reference axis. In order to mimic morphological and architectural metamorphosis, the value allocated for the physiological age of buds evolves along this reference axis according to an oriented finite state automaton whose occupation and transition law follows a semi-Markovian function.
Key Results
Simulations were performed on tomato plants to demostrate how the AmapSim simulator can interface external modules, e.g. a GREENLAB growth model and a radiosity model.
The algorithmic ability provided by AmapSim, e.g. the reference axis, enables unified control to be exercised over plant development parameter values, depending on the biological process target: how to affect the local pertinent process, i.e. the pertinent parameter(s), while keeping the rest unchanged. This opening up to external functions also offers a broadened field of applications and thus allows feedback between plant growth and the physical environment.
PMCID: PMC2710271  PMID: 17766310
Simulation software; physiological age; reference axis; FSPM; plant growth modelling; plant architecture
10.  Rhythms and Alternating Patterns in Plants as Emergent Properties of a Model of Interaction between Development and Functioning 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1233-1242.
Background and Aims
To model plasticity of plants in their environment, a new version of the functional–structural model GREENLAB has been developed with full interactions between architecture and functioning. Emergent properties of this model were revealed by simulations, in particular the automatic generation of rhythms in plant development. Such behaviour can be observed in natural phenomena such as the appearance of fruit (cucumber or capsicum plants, for example) or branch formation in trees.
In the model, a single variable, the source–sink ratio controls different events in plant architecture. In particular, the number of fruits and branch formation are determined as increasing functions of this ratio. For some sets of well-chosen parameters of the model, the dynamical evolution of the ratio during plant growth generates rhythms.
Key Results and Conclusions
Cyclic patterns in branch formation or fruit appearance emerge without being forced by the model. The model is based on the theory of discrete dynamical systems. The mathematical formalism helps us to explain rhythm generation and to control the behaviour of the system. Rhythms can appear during both the exponential and stabilized phases of growth, but the causes are different as shown by an analytical study of the system. Simulated plant behaviours are very close to those observed on real plants. With a small number of parameters, the model gives very interesting results from a qualitative point of view. It will soon be subjected to experimental data to estimate the model parameters.
PMCID: PMC2710268  PMID: 17715304
Rhythms; plasticity; plant growth model; GREENLAB; interactions; branching system; fructification; emergent properties
11.  Quantitative Genetics and Functional–Structural Plant Growth Models: Simulation of Quantitative Trait Loci Detection for Model Parameters and Application to Potential Yield Optimization 
Annals of Botany  2007;101(8):1243-1254.
Background and Aims
Prediction of phenotypic traits from new genotypes under untested environmental conditions is crucial to build simulations of breeding strategies to improve target traits. Although the plant response to environmental stresses is characterized by both architectural and functional plasticity, recent attempts to integrate biological knowledge into genetics models have mainly concerned specific physiological processes or crop models without architecture, and thus may prove limited when studying genotype × environment interactions. Consequently, this paper presents a simulation study introducing genetics into a functional–structural growth model, which gives access to more fundamental traits for quantitative trait loci (QTL) detection and thus to promising tools for yield optimization.
The GREENLAB model was selected as a reasonable choice to link growth model parameters to QTL. Virtual genes and virtual chromosomes were defined to build a simple genetic model that drove the settings of the species-specific parameters of the model. The QTL Cartographer software was used to study QTL detection of simulated plant traits. A genetic algorithm was implemented to define the ideotype for yield maximization based on the model parameters and the associated allelic combination.
Key Results and Conclusions
By keeping the environmental factors constant and using a virtual population with a large number of individuals generated by a Mendelian genetic model, results for an ideal case could be simulated. Virtual QTL detection was compared in the case of phenotypic traits – such as cob weight – and when traits were model parameters, and was found to be more accurate in the latter case. The practical interest of this approach is illustrated by calculating the parameters (and the corresponding genotype) associated with yield optimization of a GREENLAB maize model. The paper discusses the potentials of GREENLAB to represent environment × genotype interactions, in particular through its main state variable, the ratio of biomass supply over demand.
PMCID: PMC2710265  PMID: 17766844
Plant growth model; GREENLAB; genetics; QTL; breeding; yield optimization; genetic algorithm; Zea mays
12.  Parameter Stability of the Functional–Structural Plant Model GREENLAB as Affected by Variation within Populations, among Seasons and among Growth Stages 
Annals of Botany  2006;99(1):61-73.
Background and Aims
It is increasingly accepted that crop models, if they are to simulate genotype-specific behaviour accurately, should simulate the morphogenetic process generating plant architecture. A functional–structural plant model, GREENLAB, was previously presented and validated for maize. The model is based on a recursive mathematical process, with parameters whose values cannot be measured directly and need to be optimized statistically. This study aims at evaluating the stability of GREENLAB parameters in response to three types of phenotype variability: (1) among individuals from a common population; (2) among populations subjected to different environments (seasons); and (3) among different development stages of the same plants.
Five field experiments were conducted in the course of 4 years on irrigated fields near Beijing, China. Detailed observations were conducted throughout the seasons on the dimensions and fresh biomass of all above-ground plant organs for each metamer. Growth stage-specific target files were assembled from the data for GREENLAB parameter optimization. Optimization was conducted for specific developmental stages or the entire growth cycle, for individual plants (replicates), and for different seasons. Parameter stability was evaluated by comparing their CV with that of phenotype observation for the different sources of variability. A reduced data set was developed for easier model parameterization using one season, and validated for the four other seasons.
Key Results and Conclusions
The analysis of parameter stability among plants sharing the same environment and among populations grown in different environments indicated that the model explains some of the inter-seasonal variability of phenotype (parameters varied less than the phenotype itself), but not inter-plant variability (parameter and phenotype variability were similar). Parameter variability among developmental stages was small, indicating that parameter values were largely development-stage independent. The authors suggest that the high level of parameter stability observed in GREENLAB can be used to conduct comparisons among genotypes and, ultimately, genetic analyses.
PMCID: PMC2802986  PMID: 17158141
Plant architecture; functional–structural models; crop simulation; parameter stability; allometric relationships; sink capacity; Zea mays
13.  Parameter Optimization and Field Validation of the Functional–Structural Model GREENLAB for Maize 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(2):217-230.
• Background and Aims There are three reasons for the increasing demand for crop models that build the plant on the basis of architectural principles and organogenetic processes: (1) realistic concepts for developing new crops need to be guided by such models; (2) there is an increasing interest in crop phenotypic plasticity, based on variable architecture and morphology; and (3) engineering of mechanized cropping systems requires information on crop architecture. The functional–structural model GREENLAB was recently presented that simulates resource-dependent plasticity of plant architecture. This study introduces a new methodology for crop parameter optimization against measured data called multi-fitting, validates the calibrated model for maize with independent field data, and describes a technique for 3D visualization of outputs.
• Methods Maize was grown near Beijing during the 2000, 2001 and 2003 (two sowing dates) summer seasons in a block design with four to five replications. Detailed morphological and topological observations were made on the plant architecture throughout the development of the four crops. Data obtained in 2000 was used to establish target files for parameter optimization using the generalized least square method, and parameter accuracy was evaluated by coefficient of variance. In situ plant digitization was used to establish 3D symbol files for organs that were then used to translate model outputs directly into 3D representations for each time step of model execution.
•Key Results and Conclusions Multi-fitting against several target files obtained at different growth stages gave better parameter accuracy than single fitting at maturity only, and permitted extracting generic organ expansion kinetics from the static observations. The 2000 model gave excellent predictions of plant architecture and vegetative growth for the other three seasons having different temperature regimes, but predictions of inter-seasonal variability of biomass partitioning during grain filling were less accurate. This was probably due to insufficient consideration of processes governing cob sink size and terminal leaf senescence. Further perspectives for model improvement are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2803369  PMID: 16390847
Plant architecture; competition among sinks; source–sink relationships; functional–structural models; Zea mays; model parameterization

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