Section: New Results

Analysis of structures resulting from meristem activity

Acquisition and design of plant geometry

Participants : Frédéric Boudon, Christophe Pradal, Christophe Godin, Christian Fournier, Ibrahim Chedaddi, Mathilde Balduzzi, Julien Diener.

Virtual 3D model of plants are required in many areas of plant modeling. They can be used for instance to simulate physical interaction of real plant structures with their environment (light, rain, wind, pests, ...), to set up initial conditions of growth models or to assess their output against real data. In the past decade, methods have been developed to digitize plant architectures in 3D [81], [68]. These methods are based on direct measurements of position and shape of every plant organ in space. Although they provide accurate results, they are particularly time consuming. More rapid and automated methods are now required in order to collect plant architecture data of various types and sizes in a systematic way. In this aim, we explore the use of laser scanner and pictures.

  • Reconstruction of tree structures from 3D laser scanner data. (Olivier Simler [AFEF, AGAP], Chakkrit Preuksakarn, Frédéric Boudon, Christophe Godin, Benoit Pallas [AFEF, AGAP], Evelyne Coste [AFEF, AGAP])

    We investigate the possibility to use 3D laser scanners to automate plant digitizing. We are developing algorithms to reconstruct branching systems without leaves or foliage from scanner data or from scan simulated on plant mock-up obtained using different digitizing method.

    For the branching systems, we previously proposed a reconstruction method to reconstruct plausible branching structures from laser scanner data based on the concept of space colonization [78]. Additionally, a number of automatic methods were proposed in the literature. A graphical editor has been developed and makes it possible to test these different methods and correct manually the reconstruction on laser scans. An additional validation pipeline makes it possible to compares automatic reconstruction with ground truth data using two indices of geometrical and structural similarities [59].

    This year, the editor has been augmented for better user control over the different step of the reconstruction process. Some first alignment procedures of scans and reconstructions made at different times of the year have been also implemented. An application for the reconstruction of an apple tree core collection has been conducted during the internship of O. Simler in a collaboration with the AFEF Team of UMR AGAP.

  • Characterizing wheat canopy characteristics from LiDAR measurements. (Shouyang Liu [Emmah,Inra], Fred Baret [Emmah,Inra], Frédéric Boudon, Christian Fournier)

    Green area index (GAI) has been difficult to estimate accurately at large scales due to the cost prohibitive nature of classical in-situ methods. We propose to use LiDAR to overcome this problem. Through this work, we proposed a self-learning method to estimate GAI using LiDAR-derived metrics over a wheat field.

    Specifically, we developed a LiDAR simulator to carry out scanning on digital 3D objects, mimicking the measuring principle and setups of actual LiDAR sensors. The footprint and the geometrical configuration of the LiDAR are explicitly accounted for. Comparison with measurements of actual LiDAR demonstrates that the simulator generates a 3D point cloud having the same statistical properties as those derived from the actual LiDAR measurements.

    We then used a machine learning algorithm to correlate LiDAR-derived metrics and GAI over synthetic datasets. 3D wheat canopy scenes were generated with AdelWheat model for two contrasting development stages across a wide range of combination of the model parameters. The scenes were transformed into 3D point clouds using the LiDAR simulator. Results demonstrate that emerging properties, such as leaf area index (GLAI), could be retrieved with a good accuracy.

  • Reconstruction of annual plants from multi-view images. (Simon Artzet, Jerome Chopard, Christian Fournier, Christophe Pradal, Christophe Godin, Xavier Sirault [CSIRO-HRPPC, Canberra], Tsu-Wei Chen[Inra, LEPSE])

    Image-based phenotyping platforms in semi-controlled conditions offer large possibilities to perform genetic analyses of plant growth, architecture, light interception, and biomass accumulation over large time series for thousands of plants. However, methods for image analysis currently available are still very crude and need improvement and robustness to process huge amount of data. We are developing a python software framework dedicated to the analysis of high throughput phenotyping data and models named Phenomenal. This software framework currently consists of 2D and 3D image analysis workflow which ranges from 2D organs segmentation, 3D multi-view reconstruction, image-base meshing transformation, 2D/3D morphological thinning/skeletonization, 3D segmentation and tracking of plant organs maize (under development). We have processed images from phenoarch platform of the last four years and have built for each plant (maize, cotton, etc.) a voxel point cloud and image-base meshing representation and also for 725 maize plants a voxel point cloud automatically segmented (currently stem and mature leaf). Each process is run on distant server (private or virtual machines on FranceGrille cloud) and results can be viewed via a jupyter notebook server. Furthermore, 3D FSPM model for maize architectural development (named ADEL), is used to help segmenting plant images and to automate the mapping between segmented 3D objects and plant organs defined in the model. The 3D reconstructed model is combined with meteorological data to feed a light distribution model and estimate light use efficiency. This software framework was presented to “BMVA technical meeting: Plants in Computer Vision”.

  • Reconstruction of virtual fruits from pictures. (Ibrahim Chedaddi, Mik Cieslak, Nadia Bertin [Inra, Avignon], Frédéric Boudon, Christophe Godin, Michel Genard [Inra, Avignon], Christophe Goz-Bac [Université Montpellier 2])

    This research theme is supported by the Agropolis project MecaFruit3D.

    The aim of this work is to provide methods for generating fruit structure that can be integrated with models of fruit function. To this end, a modeling pipeline has been developed in the OpenAlea platform. It involves two steps: (1) generating a 3D volumetric mesh representation of the entire fruit, and (2) generating a complex vascular network that is embedded within this mesh using the concept of space colonization [80]. Previous studies demonstrated the possibility to create species-specific models of fruit structure with relatively low effort [63]. We focus now on validating the vascular networks by comparing them to experimental data from the literature. This work has been presented at the ISHS symposium in Montpellier [60] and resulted in a publication [17].

    Using these fruit virtual structures, a mechanical model of fruit growth is also developed (see section 6.3.2) taking into account the distribution of water fluxes in the fruit.

  • Review on morphological plant modelling. (Christophe Pradal, Mathilde Balduzzi, Alexander Bucksch [Georgia Univ., USA], Daniel H. Chitwood [Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, USA])

    Plant morphology is inherently mathematical. The geometries of leaves and flowers and intricate topologies of the root have fascinated plant biologists and mathematicians alike. Beyond providing aesthetic inspiration, understanding plant morphology has become pressing in an era of climate change and a growing population. Gaining an understanding of how to modify plant architecture through molecular biology and breeding is critical to improving agriculture, and the monitoring of ecosystems and global vegetation is vital to modeling a future with fewer natural resources. In this review [45], we begin by summarizing the rich history and state of the art in quantifying the form of plants, mathematical models of patterning in plants, and how plant morphology manifests dynamically across disparate scales of biological organization. We then explore the fundamental challenges that remain unanswered concerning plant morphology, from the barriers preventing the prediction of phenotype from genotype to modeling the fluttering of leaves in a light breeze. We end with a discussion concerning the education of plant morphology synthesizing biological and mathematical approaches and ways to facilitate research advances through outreach, cross-disciplinary training, and open science.

Modeling the plant ontogenic program

Participants : Christophe Godin, Yann Guédon, Jean-Baptiste Durand, Pierre Fernique, Marc Labadie, Christophe Pradal, Jean Peyhardi.

This research theme is supported by one PhD program.

The remarkable organization of plants at macroscopic scales may be used to infer particular aspects of meristem functioning. The fact that plants are made up of the repetition of many similar components at different scales, and the presence of morphological gradients, e.g. [54], [70], [71], [67], provides macroscopic evidence for the existence of regularities and identities in processes that drive meristem activity at microscopic scales. Different concepts have been proposed to explain these specific organizations such as "morphogenetic program" [75], "age state" [66] or "physiological age" [56]. All these concepts state that meristem fate changes according to position within the plant structure and during its development. Even though these changes in meristem fate are specific to each species and lead to the differentiation of axes, general rules can be highlighted [66], [56]. Here we develop computational methods to decipher these rules.

  • Relating branching structure to the shoot properties. (Jean Peyhardi, Yann Guédon, Evelyne Coste [AGAP, AFEF team], Catherine Trottier [I3M], Yves Caraglio [AMAP], Pierre-Eric Lauri [AGAP, AFEF team])

    Shoot branching structures often take the form of a succession of homogeneous branching zones and have been analyzed using segmentation models such as hidden semi-Markov chains. Axillary meristem fates are influenced by local properties of the parent shoot such as for instance its growth rate or local curvature. The objective of this work is to develop statistical models that generalize hidden semi-Markov chains with the capability to incorporate explanatory variables that vary along the parent shoot (e.g. leaf growth rate, leaf surface, internode length, local curvature of the parent shoot). More precisely, the simple multinomial distributions that represent the axillary productions observed in the different branching zones are replaced by multinomial generalized linear models (GLMs). Since the two classical categories of multinomial GLMs that correspond either to nominal or ordinal categorical response variables were not appropriate, we chose to develop a new family of multinomial GLMs called partitioned conditional GLMs [25] that enable to tackle hierarchically-structured categorical response variables. Typically, we need to distinguish different timing of branching events (e.g. immediate shoot, one-year-delayed shoot and latent bud), different categories of offspring shoots (e.g. among one-year-delayed shoots, vegetative short shoot, vegetative long shoot and flowering shoot) and to specialize the explanatory variables for certain categories of offspring shoots (e.g. the growth of the parent shoot influence the immediate offspring shoots but not the one-year-delayed offspring shoots). The resulting integrative models are called semi-Markov switching partitioned conditional GLMs and have been applied to apple and pear tree branching structures.

  • Genetic determinisms of the alternation of flowering in apple tree progenies. (Jean-Baptiste Durand, Alix Allard [AGAP, AFEF team], Evelyne Costes [AGAP, AFEF team])

    A first study was published to characterize genetic determinisms of the alternation of flowering in apple tree progenies [64]. Data were collected at two scales: at whole tree scale (with annual time step) and a local scale (annual shoots, which correspond to portions of stems that were grown during the same year). Two replications of each genotype were available.

    Indices were proposed for early detection of alternation during the juvenile phase. They were based on a trend model and a quantification of the deviation amplitudes and dependency, with respect to the trend. This allowed early quantification of alternation from the yearly numbers of inflorescences at tree scale. Some quantitative trait loci (QTL) were found in relation with this indices.

    For better interpretation of the relationships of alternation at both scales, new models and indices were developed for sequences of flowering events at axis scale. New data sets where collected in other F1 progenies. Ancestral relationships between parents of different progenies were taken into account to enhance the power of QTL detection using Bayesian methods, and other QTL were found using these new indices.

  • Characterizing tree patchiness using a tree segmentation/clustering approach. (Pierre Fernique, Anaëlle Dambreville, Jean-Baptiste Durand, Christophe Pradal, Yann Guédon, Frédéric Normand [CIRAD, HortSys, Réunion Island], Pierre-Eric Lauri [INRA, System]).

    Patchiness is characterized by clumps of homogeneous botanical entities (e.g. a clump of flowering growth units) within tree canopy. It is therefore assumed that there are subtrees within which the characteristics of the botanical entities follow the same or nearly the same distribution, and between which these characteristics have different distributions. The detection of such subtrees can thus be stated as tree-indexed data segmentation. We therefore transposed multiple change-point models to tree-indexed data. The output of the segmentation procedure is a partition of trees such that two non-adjacent subtrees can be very similar in terms of botanical entity characteristics. We thus incorporated a second stage of clustering of subtrees based on a mixture model in order to group non-adjacent similar subtrees. This statistical modeling framework was applied to young mango trees [32].

  • Simulating fruit tree phenology. (A.S. Briand, Frédéric Boudon, Frédéric Normand [CIRAD, HortSys, Réunion Island], Anaëlle Dambreville, Jean-Baptiste Durand, Pierre Fernique, Yann Guédon, Christophe Pradal, Pierre-Eric Lauri [INRA, System])

    Mango is a tropical tree characterized by strong asynchronisms within and between trees. To study more precisely the interplay between the plant structural components, we built an integrative model to simulate the plant development based on the L-system formalism and GLM to model the dependencies between events. With such model, we showed the importance of architectural and temporal factors in the development of the units of the trees, see 1. The model also simulates the phenology of shoots and inflorescences. For this, the sizes of the different organs is modelled by statistical laws estimated from measurements that depends on their locations in the architecture. The growth speed of organs is modulated by the temperature. The model has been then coupled with an ecophysiological model of fruit growth [73], [74]. The global aim is to have a crop simulation model to predict fruit yield and quality on mango tree. An overview of this global model based on the coupling of different structural or ecophysiological sub-models has been also presented in the FSPMA conference [44].

    In the context of the PhD of S. Persello, we aim at extending this model with the effect of agricultural practices. For this, a number of experiment has been conducted this year with some mango trees being pruned with different intensity (global mass removed) and severity (depth of the removed elements). Analysis and characterization of the effect of pruning on the subsequent vegetative development of the tree in currently under investigation.

    Figure 1. Simulation of the development of a mango tree over two cycles [58]. The first and last image corresponds to the end of the vegetative period of the 3rd and 5th growing cycle (June), respectively while the second and third images correspond to the flowering phase (August) of the 3rd and 4th cycles, respectively. The different colours of the inflorescences of the 3rd image show different developmental stages and the flowering asynchronism over the tree.
  • Characterizing the successive flowering phases of strawberry in relation to genetic determinants. (Yann Guédon, Marc Labadie, Béatrice Denoyes [INRA, UMR BFP, Villenave d’Ornon], Justine Perrotte)

    Our aim was to characterize the phenology of perpetual flowering strawberry genotypes, which is of particular importance for better predicting fruit production. We applied multiple change-point models for the synchronous segmentation of the individuals of a given genotype in successive flowering phases [24]. We identified two groups of genotypes that differ by the intensity of the flowering at the end of the flowering period. Using a genetic approach, we identified a locus controlling the flowering intensity at the end of the flowering period that likely explain these two groups of genotypes. A multivariate generalization of the synchronous segmentation approach is developed in the context of Marc Labadie's PhD [50], the idea being to characterize not only the flowering pattern as in our first study but more generally the developmental pattern combining vegetative development, branching and flowering.

  • Self-nested structure of plants.(Christophe Godin, Romain Azaïs, Farah Ben Naoum, Jean-Baptiste Durand, Alain Jean-Marie)

    In a previous work [6], we designed a method to compress tree structures and to quantify their degree of self-nestedness. This method is based on the detection of isomorphic subtrees in a given tree and on the construction of a DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph, equivalent to the original tree, where a given subtree class is represented only once (compression is based on the suppression of structural redundancies in the original tree). In the compressed graph, every node representing a particular subtree in the original tree has exactly the same height as its corresponding node in the original tree.

    The method proposed in [6] thus compresses a tree in width, but not in height. In a new work, we designed an extension of this compression method in which a tree is compressed in both width and height. The method is based on the detection of so-called quasi-isomorphic paths in a tree and on the compression of these paths in height. A paper describing the corresponding algorithms has been recently accepted in the Journal of Theoretical Biology [16].

    The class of self-nested trees presents remarkable compression properties because of the systematic repetition of subtrees in their structure. In a collaboration with two other Inria project-teams (MISTIS and BIGS), studied methods to approximate a tree with a tree in the class of self-nested trees. We first provided a better combinatorial characterization of this specific family of trees. We then showed that self-nested trees may be considered as an approximation class of unordered trees. We finally compared our approximation algorithms with a competitive approach of the literature on a simulated dataset. [42]

Analyzing the influence of the environment on the plant ontogenic program

Participants : Jean-Baptiste Durand, Christian Fournier, Christophe Godin, Yann Guédon, Christophe Pradal, Jean Peyhardi, Pierre Fernique, Guillaume Garin.

This research theme is supported by three PhD programs.

The ontogenetic programme of a plant is actually sensitive to environmental changes. If, in particular cases, we can make the assumption that the environment is a fixed control variable (see section 6.1.2), in general the structure produced by meristem results from a tight interaction between the plant and its environment, throughout its lifetime. Based on observations, we thus aim to trace back to the different components of the growth (ontogenetic development and its modulation by the environment). This is made using two types of approaches. On the one hand, we develop a statistical approach in which stochastic models are augmented with additional time-varying explanatory variables that represent the environment variations. The design of estimation procedures for these models make it possible to separate the plant ontogenetic programme from its modulation by the environment. On the other hand, we build reactive models that make it possible to simulate in a mechanistic way the interaction between the plant development and its environment.

  • Investigating how architectural development interfere with epidemics and epidemic control. (Christian Fournier, Corinne Robert [Ecosys, INRA], Guillaume Garin [ITK, Montpellier], Bruno Andrieu [Ecosys, INRA], Christophe Pradal)

    Sustainable agriculture requires the identification of new, environmentally responsible strategies of crop protection. Modelling of pathosystems can allow a better understanding of the major interactions inside these dynamic systems and lead to innovative protection strategies. In particular, functional–structural plant models (FSPMs) have been identified as a means to optimize the use of architecture-related traits. A current limitation lies in the inherent complexity of this type of modelling, and thus the purpose of this work is to provide a framework to both extend and simplify the modelling of pathosystems using FSPMs. Complex models are disassembled into separate knowledge sources originating from different specialist areas of expertise and these can be shared and reassembled into multidisciplinary models. This year, we worked on four application studies that used the framework. In the frame of the PhD of Guillaume Garin, we perform a validation of the wheat septoria model, an analysis of the influence of the wheat architecture on the competition between septoria and brown rust, and a sensitivity analysis of the response of the severity of septoria to architectural traits. In the frame of the Echap project, we use the wheat-septoria model to indentify optimal date of pesticide application. All these studies allows to populate the framework with consistent example of application, and lead to the development of operational modules that allows the fitting and validation of pathosystem models with experimental data.

  • Investigating how hydraulic structure interfere with gas-exchange dynamics of complex plants canopies under water deficit (Christophe Pradal, Christian Fournier, Rami Albasha [LEPSE, Inra] and Eric Lebon [LEPSE, Inra])

    Individual leaves positioning within a plant canopy is a major determinant of the spatial distribution pattern of gas-exchange rates and energy budget within that canopy. Under water deficit, this distribution may be altered since soil drying affects stem hydraulic conductivity and, consequently, leaves stomatal conductance, suggesting that the hydraulic structure of the shoot may shape the intra-canopy variability of gas-exchange rates under water deficit. In this project, we design HydroShoot [30], a functional-structural plant model which allows simulating the hydraulic structure, energy budget and gas-exchange fluxes of complex plant canopies under water deficit. Model parameters are calibrated and validated using sapflow and entire plant gas exchange data collected in 2009 and 2012 from grapevine (Vitis vinifera L. cv. Syrah) experiments under three training systems (Lyre, GDC and VSP) having contrasted canopy structures. The model is then used to evaluate the role of the hydraulic structure in predicting the intra-canopy variability of temperature and intrinsic water use efficiency of trained grapevines. The resulting HydroShoot model allows to capture the effect of the different training systems on the spatial distribution of temperature and foliar photosynthesis within the canopy. We show that the intra-canopy variability of gas-exchange dynamics were mainly explained by the variability of local climate conditions, while the role of the hydraulic structure appeared only as secondary. Finally, the proposed HydroShoot model has been implemented for grapevine in the OpenAlea platform and will be extended to other plant architectural systems.

  • Eucalyptus development in response to different water stress and fertilization levels (Yann Guédon, Charlène Arnaud (CIRAD AMAP and BioWooEB), Sylvie Sabatier (CIRAD AMAP)

    Eucalyptus grandis has been grown successfully in plantations in many tropical regions including southern Brazil. The objective of the PhD of Charlène Arnaud (CIRAD AMAP and BioWooEB) is to study the modulation of the development of Eucalyptus main stems in response to water stresses and different levels of potassium or sodium fertilization. Eucalyptus main stem is characterized by a two-scale growth pattern with (i) at coarse scale, roughly stationary growth phases with phase changes likely corresponding to cold seasons and (ii) at fine scale, more ore less systematic alternation of short and long internodes as a consequence of the phylotactic pattern. We thus developed specific multiple change-point models (piecewise 1st-order autoregressive models) for characterizing this two-scale growth pattern. The objective will be now to study the modulation of this pattern in response to different water stress and fertilization levels.

  • Quantifying the impact of water deficit on the production and flowering of apple trees (Jean-Baptiste Durand, Benoit Pallas [AGAP, AFEF team], Evelyne Costes [AGAP, AFEF team])

    Water stress generates a number of physiological and morphological responses in plants that depend on the intensity and duration of stress as well as the plant species and development stage. In perennial plants, WS may affect plant development through cumulative effects that modify plant functions, architecture and production over time. Plant architecture depends on the fate of the terminal and axillary buds that can give rise, in the particular case of apple, to reproductive or vegetative growth units (GUs) of different lengths. In this study, the impact of long-term WS (7 years) on the fate of terminal and axillary buds was investigated in relation to flowering occurrence and production pattern (biennial vs regular) in the “Granny Smith” cultivar. It was observed that water stress decreased the total number of GUs per branch, regardless of their type. Conversely, water stress did not modify the timing of the two successive developmental phases characterized by the production of long and medium GUs and an alternation of floral GUs over time, respectively. The analysis of GU successions over time using a variable-order Markov chain that included both the effects of the previous flowering events and water treatment, revealed that water stress reduced the transition towards long and medium GUs and increased transition probabilities toward floral, short and dead GUs. Water stress also slightly increased the proportion of axillary floral GUs. The higher relative frequency of floral GUs compared with vegetative ones reduced the tendency to biennial bearing under water stress. The accelerated ontogenetic trend observed under water stress suggests lower vegetative growth that could, in turn, be beneficial to floral induction and fruit set [29], [37]. Ongoing work is conducted to determine the role of external (temperature and water stress) and internal (hormonal signalling, C source-sink relationships) factors in floral induction and consequently, in the regular or biennial behaviour in fruiting in apple trees. Particularly, its aim is to determine at which scale within the plant the production patterns are impacted by each factor. To analyse the carbon source-sink relationships from shoot to tree scales, this study is based on a set of genotypes displaying a large variability in flowering and production patterns.