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DigR: A generic model and its open source simulation software to mimic three-dimensional root-system architecture diversity

Barczi J.F., Rey H., Griffon S., Jourdan C.. 2018. Annals of Botany, 121 (5) : p. 1089-1104.

DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcy018

Background and Aims: Many studies exist in the literature dealing with mathematical representations of root systems, categorized, for example, as pure structure description, partial derivative equations or functional¿structural plant models. However, in these studies, root architecture modelling has seldom been carried out at the organ level with the inclusion of environmental influences that can be integrated into a whole plant characterization. Methods: We have conducted a multidisciplinary study on root systems including field observations, architectural analysis, and formal and mathematical modelling. This integrative and coherent approach leads to a generic model (DigR) and its software simulator. Architecture analysis applied to root systems helps at root type classification and architectural unit design for each species. Roots belonging to a particular type share dynamic and morphological characteristics which consist of topological and geometric features. The DigR simulator is integrated into the Xplo environment, with a user interface to input parameter values and make output ready for dynamic 3-D visualization, statistical analysis and saving to standard formats. DigR is simulated in a quasi-parallel computing algorithm and may be used either as a standalone tool or integrated into other simulation platforms. The software is open-source and free to download at Key Results: DigR is based on three key points: (1) a root-system architectural analysis, (2) root type classification and modelling and (3) a restricted set of 23 root type parameters with flexible values indexed in terms of root position. Genericity and botanical accuracy of the model is demonstrated for growth, branching, mortality and reiteration processes, and for different root architectures. Plugin examples demonstrate the model's versatility at simulating plastic responses to environmental constraints. Outputs of the model include diverse root system structures such as tap-root, fasciculate, tuberous, nodulated and clustered root systems. Conclusions: DigR is based on plant architecture analysis which leads to specific root type classification and organization that are directly linked to field measurements. The open source simulator of the model has been included within a friendly user environment. DigR accuracy and versatility are demonstrated for growth simulations of complex root systems for both annual and perennial plants.

Mots-clés : lupinus luteus; eucalyptus; elaeis guineensis; cicer arietinum; beta vulgaris; système racinaire

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