A dynamical model of environmental effects on allocation to carbon-based secondary compounds in juvenile trees

S. Gayler, T. E.E. Grams, W. Heller, D. Treutter, E. Priesack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


• Background and Aims: Patterns and variations in concentration of carbon-based secondary compounds in plant tissues have been explained by means of different complementary and, in some cases, contradictory plant defence hypotheses for more than 20 years. These hypotheses are conceptual models which consider environmental impacts on plant internal demands. In the present study, a mathematical model is presented, which converts and integrates the concepts of the 'Growth-Differentiation Balance' hypothesis and the 'Protein Competition' model into a dynamic plant growth model, that was tested with concentration data of polyphenols in leaves of juvenile apple, beech and spruce trees. The modelling approach is part of the plant growth model PLATHO that considers simultaneously different environmental impacts on the most important physiological processes of plants. • Methods: The modelling approach for plant internal resource allocation is based on a priority scheme assuming that growth processes have priority over allocation to secondary compounds and that growth-related metabolism is more strongly affected by nitrogen deficiency than defence-related secondary metabolism. • Key Results: It is shown that the model can reproduce the effect of nitrogen fertilization on allocation patterns in apple trees and the effects of elevated CO2 and competition in juvenile beech and spruce trees. The analysis of model behaviour reveals that large fluctuations in plant internal availability of carbon and nitrogen are possible within a single vegetation period. Furthermore, the model displays a non-linear allocation behaviour to carbon-based secondary compounds. • Conclusions: The simulation results corroborate the underlying assumptions of the presented modelling approach for resource partitioning between growth-related primary metabolism and defence-related secondary metabolism. Thus, the dynamical modelling approach, which considers variable source and sink strengths of plant internal resources within different phenological growth stages, presents a successful translation of existing concepts into a dynamic mathematical model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1089-1098
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon-based secondary compounds
  • Fagus sylvatica
  • Malus domestica
  • Nitrogen
  • Phenolic allocation
  • Picea abies
  • Plant defence hypotheses
  • Plant growth
  • Simulation model


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