We owe plants our oxygen, our food, our medicines, our furniture and clothing and the enjoyment of our natural environment. As a consequence, plant scientists have long been engaged in understanding plant growth in relation to their genetic and physiological determinants, and as a result of interactions with environmental drivers such as light, temperature, water and nutrients. Conceptual models have been proposed since the 19th Century to summarize and challenge the limits of our knowledge. In the last 40 years, such models have testified to the progress made in the relationships between theory, experience and computer simulation. Functional-structural plant models (FSPMs) integrate the latest developments in plant growth modelling and allow scientists to explore the intricate relationship between plant’s modular body structure (or architecture) and processes that underlie its growth and development in space and time.
This highly interdisciplinary field of research has seen the scope of its potential applications increase dramatically in the past few years. Indeed, adapting plant production systems to global changes, preserving plant diversity in natura or selecting key traits for the breeding of efficient crops and trees in a scarcer world are all timely topics which require a degree of expertise on how plants perceive, integrate and respond to their environment. In order for us to better understand how plants with a specific genetic background grow and develop in spatially and temporally heterogeneous environmental conditions, FSPM models aim to account for the feedback loop between local perceptions and functioning of plant organs (leaves, roots…), plant regulation capabilities as a function of their genome, and whole organismal responses considering the exchange of resources and signalling between plant parts.
Besides sheer understanding, such FSP models also find a place of choice in model-assisted applications developed to analyze the genotype-phenotype relationship. The phenotype of a plant (i.e., its appearance and behaviour) indeed results from the interaction of its genes (i.e., the genetic code, G) with the local environment (abiotic and biotic factors, E). While high-throughput methodologies are now routinely available to qualify the genes’ action, plant-phenotyping techniques are catching up in order to decipher GxE interactions. Non-invasive, imaging‐ and model-based methods have become more common to characterize phenotypes. FSP models thus address a broad range of questions in plant science, ecology and breeding. However, much research is also still needed into the design of such models itself and the associated methodological questions.
The Sixth International Conference on Functional-Structural Plant Growth Modeling, Simulation, Visualization and Applications (PMA 2018), to be held in Hefei, China, 4-8 Nov 2018, explicitly focuses on these different aspects: cutting-edge plant science research in which FSP models are utilized to address questions related to plant growth, development, competition, and breeding, as well as computer science research, focused on capturing the complexity of mechanisms driving processes at the cell, organ, plant, field and community levels.
Annals of Botany will release a Special Issue on Functional-Structural Plant Growth Modelling in 2020 following the PMA 2018 conference. Guest editors will be Gaëtan Louarn and Youhong Song. This is also an open call for submission of additional papers related to FSP modelling and model-assisted plant phenotyping which can also be considered for inclusion in the Special Issue, following the usual peer-review process. All types of papers (primary research articles, reviews, viewpoints, research-in-context) are welcomed. If you have a manuscript that you would like to be considered for inclusion in the Special Issue on Functional-Structural Plant Growth Modelling, please send an outline (title, authors and 250–500 words) of your article to firstname.lastname@example.org. All Special Issue submissions must be received via AoB’s submission portal before 30 May 2019 in order to be considered for inclusion in the Special Issue. The deadline for outline submission is 28 Feb 2019.
The 2020 Special Issue of Annals of Botany on Plant Growth Modelling and Applications will build on previous issues in the area;
Functional–Structural Plant Growth Modelling (Vol. 121, No 5, April 2018)
Developmental Robustness and Species Diversity (Vol. 117, No 5, April 2016)
Functional–Structural Plant Modelling (Vol. 114, No 4, September 2014)
Plant Growth and Architectural Modelling and its Applications (Vol 107, No 5, April 2011)
Functional–Structural Plant Modelling (Vol 108, No 6, October 2011)