Physiological trait networks enhance understanding of crop growth and water use in contrasting environments

Gleason, S M and Barnard, D M and Green, T R and Mackay, S and Wang, D R and Ainsworth, E A and Altenhofen, J and Brodribb, T J and Cochard, H and Comas, L H and Cooper, M and Creek, D and DeJonge, K C and Delzon, S and Fritschi, F B and Hammer, G and Hunter, C and Lombardozzi, D and Messina, C D and Ocheltree, T and Stevens, B M and Stewart, J J and Vadez, V and Wenz, J and Wright, I J and Yemoto, K and Zhang, H (2022) Physiological trait networks enhance understanding of crop growth and water use in contrasting environments. Plant, Cell & Environment, 45. pp. 2554-2572. ISSN 1365-3040

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Plant function arises from a complex network of structural and physiological traits. Explicit representation of these traits, as well as their connections with other biophysical processes, is required to advance our understanding of plant-soil-climate interactions. We used the Terrestrial Regional Ecosystem Exchange Simulator (TREES) to evaluate physiological trait networks in maize. Net primary productivity (NPP) and grain yield were simulated across five contrasting climate scenarios. Simulations achieving high NPP and grain yield in high precipitation environments featured trait networks conferring high water use strategies: deep roots, high stomatal conductance at low water potential (“risky” stomatal regulation), high xylem hydraulic conductivity and high maximal leaf area index. In contrast, high NPP and grain yield was achieved in dry environments with low late-season precipitation via water conserving trait networks: deep roots, high embolism resistance and low stomatal conductance at low leaf water potential (“conservative” stomatal regulation). We suggest that our approach, which allows for the simultaneous evaluation of physiological traits, soil characteristics and their interactions (i.e., networks), has potential to improve our understanding of crop performance in different environments. In contrast, evaluating single traits in isolation of other coordinated traits does not appear to be an effective strategy for predicting plant performance.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : Asia
Uncontrolled Keywords: breeding, crop improvement, hydraulic traits, maize, photosynthesis, plant growth, process simulation, stomata, water potential, xylem
Subjects: Others > Crop Improvement
Others > Maize
Others > Plant Growth
Depositing User: Mr Nagaraju T
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2023 10:43
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2023 10:43
Official URL:
Acknowledgement: The contributions of Mark Cooper, Graeme Hammer, Timothy Brodribb and Ian Wright were supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and Agriculture (CE200100015). Hervé Cochard was supported by the ANR projects 16‐IDEX‐0001 and 18‐CE20‐0005. Jared Stewart and Felix Fritschi were supported by National Science Foundation grants IOS‐1907338 and IOS‐1444448, respectively.
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