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.