Designing oil palm architectural ideotypes for optimal light interception and carbon assimilation through a sensitivity analysis of leaf traits


Background and Aims: Enhancement of light harvesting in annual crops has successfully led to yield increases since the green revolution. Such an improvement has mainly been achieved by selecting plants with optimal canopy architecture for specific agronomic practices. For perennials such as oil palm, breeding programmes were focused more on fruit yield, but now aim at exploring more complex traits. The aim of the present study is to investigate potential improvements in light interception and carbon assimilation in the study case of oil palm, by manipulating leaf traits and proposing architectural ideotypes. Methods: Sensitivity analyses (Morris method and metamodel) were performed on a functional–structural plant model recently developed for oil palm which takes into account genetic variability, in order to virtually assess the impact of plant architecture on light interception efficiency and potential carbon acquisition. Key Results: The most sensitive parameters found over plant development were those related to leaf area (rachis length, number of leaflets, leaflet morphology), although fine attributes related to leaf geometry showed increasing influence when the canopy became closed. In adult stands, optimized carbon assimilation was estimated on plants with a leaf area index between 3.2 and 5.5 m2 m−2 (corresponding to usual agronomic conditions), with erect leaves, short rachis and petiole, and high number of leaflets on the rachis. Four architectural ideotypes for carbon assimilation are proposed based on specific combinations of organ dimensions and arrangement that limit mutual shading and optimize light distribution within the plant crown. Conclusions: A rapid set-up of leaf area is critical at young age to optimize light interception and subsequently carbon acquisition. At the adult stage, optimization of carbon assimilation could be achieved through specific combinations of architectural traits. The proposition of multiple morphotypes with comparable level of carbon assimilation opens the way to further investigate ideotypes carrying an optimal trade-off between carbon assimilation, plant transpiration and biomass partitioning.

Annals of Botany
Jean Dauzat
Jean Dauzat
Researcher (FSPM team, AMAP lab, CIRAD)

I am specialized in Functional-Structural Plant Modelling (FSPM), and my research interests include light interception, ecophysiology, tree architecture, botanics and agronomy.