Section: Overall Objectives
The cultivated areas of Europe, including agricultural land and exploitation forests, have a strong impact on global environmental conditions. Erosion, resource impoverishment due to over-exploitation, and pollution by fertilizers or pesticides are crucial problems that agronomy and forestry hope to solve through harmonious cultivation modes and exploitation strategies. For this purpose, they must take into account production needs on one hand and the environment on the other; that is to say, both quantitative and qualitative criteria. In this context, mathematical models of plant growth describing interactions between the architecture of the plant and its physiological functioning have a key role to play. They allow the exchanges (of water, carbon, minerals etc) between plants and their natural environment to be quantified. GreenLab is such a functional-structural model, and is the result of a long dialogue between botanists, physiologists and mathematicians. We have developed mathematical tools and their corresponding software for a variety of objectives:
Optimization and control of the cultivation modes: in the case of limited resources, there is an optimal strategy of fertilizing and watering during plant growth. Likewise, controlling plant density or partial forest thinnings can bring benefits. In this way, we can improve water resources and land management and reduce pollution by fertilizers.
Control of plant sanitation and pesticides treatment: by coupling the plant growth model and insect population dynamics, we can control the use of pesticides and thus reduce costs and pollution.
Selection of crop variety: we are currently working with geneticists, in order to prove that the plant genes directly determine the physiological parameters of the GreenLab model. In this way, we expect to propose better strategies for crop selection.
Virtual simulation and visualization of plantations: computer graphics techniques allow the results of numerical simulations to be visualized. This is very important in urbanism or landscaping for predicting the long-term evolution of projects.
The results of this research seem to show that in the near future, new tools of prediction, optimization and control could be effectively used in agriculture and forest exploitation on a large scale, and would drastically improve the management of the environment.