I am using computational science to help biologists understand the complexity of the underlying processes of plant growth and development. In particular, I am constructing a 3D computer model of a managed kiwifruit vine - one of the first models to integrate the vine's architecture with its physiology, and include effects of the environment and horticultural manipulation. I am working with kiwifruit in particular because of the existing collection of data available to me from researchers in New Zealand.
As a part of my work, I am proposing hypotheses for how plants grow and develop; specifically, the hypotheses for architectural development and resource allocation, and the interaction between them. A challenge is in improving the existing techniques for translating the hypotheses to mathematical formulations, and then using computer modelling to find solutions.
The key questions that I am addressing are:
- how are resources acquired and then distributed between growing organs of a plant, and
- how does resource availability effect the appearance of new organs?
Furthermore, I am investigating the effect of environment (e.g., temperature and light) and management (e.g., training and pruning) on plant growth and development.
I created the following visualization, using a specialized plant modelling platform based on Lindenmayer systems. This is a programming language perfectly suited for modelling branching structures such as plants.
An objective of my modelling work is to help horticultural researchers understand the behaviour of the real vine (for instance, to improve fruit quality), and give them a model for testing their own hypotheses. The ultimate objective of my project is to reduce the costs of some field trials by replacing them with computer modelling and virtual experiments.