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PhD Defense – Charlotte Baey
28 February 2014 @ 14 h 00 - 17 h 00
Title: Modelling inter-individual variability in plant growth models and model selection for prediction
Abstract: The modelling of plant growth and development was born at the end of the XXth century at the intersection of three disciplines: agronomy, botany and computer science. After a first period corresponding to the emergence of a lot of different models, a new trend has been initiated in the last decade to give these models a rigorous mathematical and statistical formalism. This thesis focuses on two main areas of development: (i) models evaluation and comparison, and (ii) inter-individual variability in plant populations.In the first part of the thesis, we study the predictive capacity of plant growth models, and we apply a two-step methodology to build and evaluate different models in a predictive perspective. In a first step, a sensitivity analysis is conducted to identify the most influential parameters and elaborate a more robust version of each model, and in a second step the predictive capacities of the models are compared using appropriate criteria. This study is carried out on sugar beet crops but can be easily generalized to other species. The second part of this thesis concerns the inter-individual variability in plant populations, which can be very high due to genetics or environmental varying conditions. This variability is rarely accounted for despite the major impact it can have at the agrosystem level. We proposed to take it into account using (nonlinear) mixed models, for which parameter estimation using maximum likelihood method relies on the use of stochastic variants of the Expectation-Maximization algorithm, based on Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation techniques. We first apply this approach to the case of organogenesis in sugar beet populations, and secondly, we develop an extension of the functional-structural plant growth model Greenlab, from the individual to the population scale.