Modelling kinetics of plant canopy architecture: concepts and applications

C.J. Birch, B. Andrieu, C. Fournier, J. Vos, P. Room

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Most crop models simulate the crop canopy as an homogeneous medium. This approach enables modelling of mass and energy transfer through relatively simple equations, and is useful for understanding crop production. However, schematisation of an homogeneous medium cannot address the heterogeneous nature of canopies and interactions between plants or plant organs, and errors in calculation of light interception may occur. Moreover, conventional crop models do not describe plant organs before they are visible externally e.g. young leaves of grasses. The conditions during early growth of individual organs are important determinants of final organ size, causing difficulties in incorporating effects of environmental stresses in such models. Limited accuracy in describing temporal source-sink relationships also contributes to difficulty in modelling dry matter distribution and paramaterisation of harvest indices. Functional-architectural modelling aims to overcome these limitations by (i) representing crops as populations of individual plants specified in three dimensions and (ii) by modelling whole plant growth and development from the behaviour of individual organs, based on models of organs such as leaves and internodes. Since individual plants consist of numerous organs, generic models of organ growth applicable across species are desirable. Consequently, we are studying the development of individual organs, and pararneterising it in terms of environmental variables and plant characteristics. Models incorporating plant architecture are currently applied in education, using dynamic visual representation for teaching growth and development. In research, the 3D representation of plants addresses issues presented above and new applications including modelling of pesticide distribution, fungal spore dispersal through splashing and plant to plant heterogeneity. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-533
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • maize zea-mays
  • atmospheric carbon-dioxide
  • root-system architecture
  • leaf-area
  • hydraulic architecture
  • vegetation canopies
  • radiative-transfer
  • climate change
  • grain-sorghum
  • epic model


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