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Morphological plant modeling: Unleashing geometric and topologic potential within the plant sciences

  • Bucksch, Alexander
  • Atta-Boateng, Acheampong
  • Azihou, Akomian Fortune
  • Balduzzi, Mathilde
  • Battogtokh, Dorjsuren
  • Baumgartner, Aly
  • Binder, Brad
  • Braybrook, Siobhan
  • Chang, Cynthia
  • Coneva, Viktoriya
  • DeWitt, Thomas
  • Fletcher, Alexander
  • Gehan, Malia
  • Martinez, Diego Hernan Diaz
  • Hong, Lilan
  • Iyer-Pascuzzi, Anjali
  • Klein, Laura
  • Leiboff, Samuel
  • Li, Mao
  • Lynch, Jonathan
  • And 18 more
Publication Date
Oct 04, 2016
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Plant morphology is inherently mathematical. The geometries of leaves and flowers and intricate topologies of the root have fascinated plant biologists and mathematicians alike. Beyond providing aesthetic inspiration, understanding plant morphology has become pressing in an era of climate change and a growing population. Gaining an understanding of how to modify plant architecture through molecular biology and breeding is critical to improving agriculture, and the monitoring of ecosystems and global vegetation is vital to modeling a future with fewer natural resources. In this white paper, we begin by summarizing the rich history and state of the art in quantifying the form of plants, mathematical models of patterning in plants, and how plant morphology manifests dynamically across disparate scales of biological organization. We then explore the fundamental challenges that remain unanswered concerning plant morphology, from the barriers preventing the prediction of phenotype from genotype to modeling the fluttering of leaves in a light breeze. We end with a discussion concerning the education of plant morphology synthesizing biological and mathematical approaches and ways to facilitate research advances through outreach, cross-disciplinary training, and open science. Never has the need to model plant morphology been more imperative. Unleashing the potential of geometric and topological approaches in the plant sciences promises to transform our understanding of both plants and mathematics.

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