A functional-structural model of rice linking quantitative genetic information with morphological development and physiological processes

Xu, L.F.; Henke, M.; Zhu, J.; Kurth, W.; Buck-Sorlin, G.H.


Background and Aims Although quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis of yield-related traits for rice has developed rapidly, crop models using genotype information have been proposed only relatively recently. As a first step towards a generic genotype-phenotype model, we present here a three-dimensional functional-structural plant model (FSPM) of rice, in which some model parameters are controlled by functions describing the effect of main-effect and epistatic QTLs. Methods The model simulates the growth and development of rice based on selected ecophysiological processes, such as photosynthesis (source process) and organ formation, growth and extension (sink processes). It was devised using GroIMP, an interactive modelling platform based on the Relational Growth Grammar formalism (RGG). RGG rules describe the course of organ initiation and extension resulting in final morphology. The link between the phenotype (as represented by the simulated rice plant) and the QTL genotype was implemented via a data interface between the rice FSPM and the QTLNetwork software, which computes predictions of QTLs from map data and measured trait data. Key Results Using plant height and grain yield, it is shown how QTL information for a given trait can be used in an FSPM, computing and visualizing the phenotypes of different lines of a mapping population. Furthermore, we demonstrate how modification of a particular trait feeds back on the entire plant phenotype via the physiological processes considered. Conclusions We linked a rice FSPM to a quantitative genetic model, thereby employing QTL information to refine model parameters and visualizing the dynamics of development of the entire phenotype as a result of ecophysiological processes, including the trait(s) for which genetic information is available. Possibilities for further extension of the model, for example for the purposes of ideotype breeding, are discussed