Agronomy Research Expertise in Montpellier and Languedoc-Roussillon (South of France)

Agronomy : crops and cropping systems

UMR LEPSE Ecophysiology Laboratory of Plants under Environmental Stress

Member institutes and partners  : Inra, Montpellier SupAgro

In a setting of climate change and water use competition, the Laboratory of Plant Ecophysiological Responses to Environmental Stresses (UMR LEPSE, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro) aims to identify plant traits favourable for production under water deficit conditions. The studies, carried out in collaboration with molecular physiologists, geneticists, agronomists and bioclimatologists, are geared towards crop engineering and adaptation of crop management methods.

LEPSE is divided into three research teams:

  • SPIC (Integrated Processes, Plant Growth and Environmental Stresses) focuses most of its activities on the model species Arabidospis thaliana in order to benefit from advances in the genomics of this species and its research potential.
  • MAGE (Analysis and Modelling of the Genotype x Environment Interaction) combines ecophysiological models and broad genetic approaches, focused mainly on maize, to identify genetic factors responsible for growth variations under fluctuating climatic conditions so as to deduce optimal properties (ideotypes) to ensure high yields under dry climatic conditions.
  • ETAP (Plant Transpiration Efficiency and Adaptation to Dry Climatic Conditions) analyses the biophysical and physiological determinants of water use efficiency, particularly in grapevines, in order to identify efficient genotypes.

The unit’s scientific approach is based on a combination of experimental ecophysiological and genetic approaches aimed at identifying the mechanisms or genes involved, and modelling approaches that incorporate these mechanisms to simulate the behaviour of plants in their environment. The experiments involve submitting plants to controlled climate conditions (temperature, radiation, air humidity and soil water potential), fluctuating or constant (greenhouse, field, culture chamber), with single or combined effects.

The laboratory analyses the effects of these conditions on organ growth and development, transpiration, water status and cell or organ composition. These analyses are carried out using imaging techniques, displacement sensors, biochemical methods and intracellular hydraulics tools.

Experimental platforms are developed to control the water supply and climatic conditions and automatically analyse the growth of over 1 500 plants simultaneously.

In addition to plant observations, microclimate changes can be modelled to gain access to complex variables such as radiation interception by leaves. The knowledge is pooled in mathematical and computer models to simulate the behaviour of real or virtual genotypes under different climatic conditions and agricultural management methods.

LEPSE collaborates with many national and international teams through projects funded by INRA, Région Languedoc-Roussillon (France), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (France) and the European Union. Partnerships with trade associations, seed producers and R&D organisations facilitate testing and implementation of models developed in agricultural settings.

Applications derived from these studies include, for instance, management of the grapevine leaf area based on an architectural model combined with the plot water balance, or assessment of the impact of different drought scenarios on maize yield according to the genetic traits of this crop.

Director: Bertrand Muller

15  scientists

Unit website

List of research examples/projects for the resarch unit UMR LEPSE Ecophysiology Laboratory of Plants under Environmental Stress on Agronomy: crops and cropping systems topics

Development of tools for analyzing grapevine canopy functioning

3D model of the canopy structure.G.Louarn © UMR LEPSE

The crop canopy is a site of mass and energy exchanges between the plant and atmosphere. There is high microclimatic heterogeneity in this complex environment. Many studies have shown that the grapevine canopy structure affects the yield via its effects on light interception, photosynthesis and transpiration. It also affects grape ripening and the harvested grape (...)

Drought tolerance of maize crops: selecting genotypes for different agroclimatic conditions

From the phenotyping platform to the field: analysing genetic variability in the sensitivity of growth to water deficits and predicting the behaviour of genotypes under different agroclimatic conditions. © INRA - UMR LEPSE

Improving drought tolerance in crops is hampered by the contradictory aims of maintaining production in drought conditions and reducing the yield loss risk. Depending on the climatic scenario, maintaining leaf growth under water shortage conditions may be an advantage (photosynthesis remains high) or a drawback (risk of plant death by faster soil water depletion). (...)


Update on 19/04/12


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