Agroecology describes biotic and abiotic growth factors for field crops as in natural ecosystems. Like in any ecosystem there is a strong interaction between the plants and competition for limited resources. While niche occupation is the strategy in stable ”natural” ecosystems to minimise competition between organisms, fields as monocultures with maximised plant densities are extremely competitive.  

The performance of a plant in a field not only depends on general environmental conditions. Soil quality, temperature, water availability, pests and more are important factors, but on fields competition for light (shade avoidance), water and nutrients (shoot and root competition) determine plant performance to a large degree. Like in any other ecological system the number of interdependent parameters is high. Appropriate test designs and modelling will help to get a better understanding of these dependencies, interactions and the way plants grow in highly competitive environments.
Nowadays automatic plant monitoring systems are available for  Opens internal link in current windowtests and screenings on fields as well as for high throughput greenhouse approaches.

Agroecological research and LemnaTec Scanalyzer platforms for Greenhouses

Topical plant phenotyping is mainly greenhouse phenotyping and strongly focused
 on the quantitative assessment of individual plants that grow under controlled conditions and almost without competition (“one plant per pot!”). This makes sense especially if the specific influences of genes shall be revealed. 

For the analysis of competitive systems there are no technical or measurement limits in LemnaTec  Opens internal link in current windowScanalyzer3D that would lower result details and information depth. As a common well-grown wheat plant already has several tillers and a leaf density too high to assess each leaf individually, it is only a short step from here to planting in conditions close to field-density. 

Containers on LemnaTec greenhouse conveyors can be used that cover almost the entire footprint of the plant carrier. These containers allow for areas between 0.036 and 0.2 sq m, which are suitable for planting reasonable amounts of seedlings in a single container. Conveyor systems with belts and carriers placed in maximum density create an almost closed container field with a minimisation of border effects for the individual containers. Therefore, light competition among containers is comparable to competition within a container. Unintentional competition between particularly small or large plants can be minimised by automatically moving plants through the container field at random in a so called  Opens internal link in current windowMovigField. For some cultivars, like corn, the distance between the conveyor lines and field seeding lines are quite alike. Such scenarios should even allow the measurement of leaf orientation close to field conditions in LemnaTec scanalyzer3D units (leaf angle measurement).

Barley turf micro-plots on MovingField
Agroecological research
Corn and wheat fields are highly competitive growth sites as described in agroecology