This paper reviews methods for analyzing plant performance and its genetic variability under a range of environmental conditions. Biomass accumulation is linked every day to available light in the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) domain, multiplied by the proportion of light intercepted by plants and by the radiation use efficiency. Total biomass is cumulated over the duration of the considered phase (e.g., plant cycle or vegetative phase). These durations are essentially constant for a given genotype provided that time is corrected for temperature (thermal time). Several ways of expressing thermal time are reviewed. Two alternative equations are presented, based either on the effect of transpiration, or on yield components. Their comparative interests and drawbacks are discussed. The genetic variability of each term of considered equations affects yield under water deficit, via mechanisms at different scales of plant organization and time. The effect of any physiological mechanism on yield of stressed plants acts via one of these terms, although the link is not always straightforward. Finally, I propose practical ways to compare the productivity of genotypes in field environments, and a “minimum dataset” of environmental data and traits that should be recorded for that.
Tardieu, F. Plant response to environmental conditions: assessing potential production, water demand, and negative effects of water deficit. Frontiers in Physiology (2013) 4: 17. [DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00017]