Professor Develops 3-D Model for How Plants Drink

Mario Biondini, professor in the School of Natural Resource Sciences at North Dakota State University (NDSU), Fargo, has developed a three-dimensional model that helps determine how much water plant root systems will absorb, according to a Nov. 12 press release.

In a global economy where scarcity of water can impact agricultural yields of crops to feed the world, Biondini's research offers additional insights on more accurately predicting how much water plants absorb through their root systems. The research improves upon what is known as the West, Brown, and Enquist (WBE) model for scaling laws in biological networks. The WBE model predicts how closed systems will uptake water. Although it is useful to evaluate closed systems, the WBE model does not offer an optimum way to predict water uptake in open systems such as plant root systems.

In his research, Biondini used data from 1,759 plants in 77 herbaceous plant species to test his model. Such modeling includes taking into account the resistance to water flow inside the root system (longitudinal flow) as well as the water coming into the root system (transversal flow). As the model was developed, Biondini included soil type and drainage patterns. The model uses a simple root system while still illustrating the flow dynamics of a complete root network.

The model 3DMIPS is used to investigate links between biological diversity, nutrient cycling, nutrient retention, water quality, productivity, stability, and sustainability of natural and managed ecosystems.

Funding for the research was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service National Research Initiative.

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