Modeling root system growth around obstacles
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State-of-the-Art models of Root System Architecture (RSA) do not allow simulating root growth around rigid obstacles. Yet, the presence of obstacles can be highly disruptive to the root system. We grew wheat seedlings in sealed petri dishes without obstacle and in custom 3D-printed rhizoboxes containing obstacles. Time-lapse photography was used to reconstruct the wheat root morphology network. We used the reconstructed wheat root network without obstacle to calibrate an RSA model implemented in the R-SWMS software. The root network with obstacle allowed calibrating the parameters of a new function that models the influence of rigid obstacles on wheat root growth. Experimental results show that the presence of a rigid obstacle does not affect the growth rate of the wheat root axes, but that it does influence the root trajectory after the main axis has passed the obstacle. The growth recovery time, i.e. the time for the main root axis to recover its geotropism-driven growth, is proportional to the time during which the main axis grows along the obstacle. Qualitative and quantitative comparisons between experimental and numerical results show that the proposed model successfully simulates wheat RSA growth around obstacles. Our results suggest that wheat roots follow patterns that could inspire the design of adaptive engineering flow networks.