Robert et al. explore how canopy growth, spatial organization, and leaf senescence impact epidemics of wheat Septoria tritici blotch (STB) caused by Zymoseptoria tritici. Strikingly, the timing of leaf senescence is one of the most influential traits. When the green lifespan duration of leaves is reduced epidemics are strongly reduced.
They introduce the notion of a race between the growing canopy and the developing epidemics. This race is twofold: (i) an upward race at the canopy scale where Z. tritici must keep up with the emerging leaves, (ii) a local race at the leaf scale where Z. tritici must use the resources before leaf apical senescence sets in. The results shed new light on the importance of dynamic interactions between host and pathogen.
This paper is part of the Annals of Botany Special Issue on Functional-Structural Plant Growth Modelling. It will be free access until June 2018, then available only to subscribers until April 2019 when it will be free access again.