Multi-scale modelling predicts plant stem bending behavior in response to wind to inform lodging resistance.

Lodging impedes the successful cultivation of cereal crops. Complex anatomy, morphology and environmental interactions make identifying reliable and measurable traits for breeding challenging. Therefore, we present a unique collaboration among disciplines for plant science, modelling and simulations, and experimental fluid dynamics in a broader context of breeding lodging resilient wheat and oat. We ran comprehensive wind tunnel experiments to quantify the stem bending behaviour of both cereals under controlled aerodynamic conditions. Measured phenotypes from experiments concluded that the wheat stems response is stiffer than the oat. However, these observations did not in themselves establish causal relationships of this observed behaviour with the physical traits of the plants. To further investigate we created an independent finite-element simulation framework integrating our recently developed multi-scale material modelling approach to predict the mechanical response of wheat and oat stems. All the input parameters including chemical composition, tissue characteristics and plant morphology have a strong physiological meaning in the hierarchical organization of plants, and the framework is free from empirical parameter tuning. This feature of our simulation framework reveals the multi-scale origin of the observed wide differences in the stem strength of both cereals that would not have been possible with purely experimental approach.

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