Optimising cotton growth, architecture and production: a functional-structural plant modelling approach

Cotton is an indeterminate perennial but grown as an annual cash crop for fibre. The branching pattern and fruit retention which have been considered to be driven by sugars as metabolites to fuel growth and as signals to regulate hormonal balance constitute major determinants of cotton yield formation.

Fruit and branch abortion and the cease of phytomer production highly depends on local “carbon starvation”, i.e. the absence of sufficient assimilates to sustain growth. However, the approaches to quantify the physiological process of carbon allocation towards optimal growth are still limited. How cotton plants store and allocate the available carbohydrates is poorly understood.
Here we adopt a functional-structural plant modelling approach to quantitatively characterise the plant performance in terms of branching pattern, fruit abortion and biomass allocation in response to local carbon availability.
This study aims to provide theoretical support for our hypothesis that local carbon availability governs regulatory “decisions” by the plant to optimise the utilization of limited resources. These models can also be used to help farmers to optimise crop managements to produce higher yield.