Virtual plants: modeling plant architecture in changing environments
Plant architecture is a major determinant of the resource use efficiency of crops. The architecture of a plant shows ontogenetic structural changes which are modified by multiple environmental factors: Plant canopies are exposed to natural fluctuations in light quantity and the dynami- cally changing canopy architecture induces local variations in light quality. Changing temperature conditions or water availability during growth additionally affect plant architecture and thus crop productivity, because plants have various options to adapt their architecture to the availa- ble resources. Meeting the challenge of ensuring food security we must understand the plant’s mechanisms for integrating and responding to an orchestra of environmental factors. ‘Virtual plants’ describe plant architecture in silico. Virtual plants have the potential to help us understanding the complex feedback pro- cesses between canopy architecture, multiple environmental factors and crop productivity. As a research tool, they have become increasingly popular within the last decade due to their great power of realistically visualizing the plant’s architecture. This Research Topic highlights current research carried out on modeling plant architecture in changing environments.