Leaf size is calculated empirically as a function of time. However, there was a strong correlation between leaf size and the assimilate supply/demand ratio represented by dW/W (daily change in weight/total plant weight). This approach is included in the model as an option for simulating environmental influences on leaf size. This relationship functioned well, particularly on release of drought stress.
Phenology is described by assuming two independent "clocks" controlling vegetative and reproductive development respectively. Both clocks are influenced by temperature and water status, while reproductive development is also influenced by photoperiod. Fitting the standard model for photoperiod response to observed reproductive branching data gave a minimum optimum photoperiod of 15.5 h and a sensitivity of 0.25 h-1, assuming the crop was sensitive to photoperiod from emergence. However, an improved fit was obtained by also assuming branching is inhibited when the rate of change of photoperiod was above 0.01 h d-1.
Sensitivity analysis confirmed previous reports that leaf longevity is an important character determining storage root yield; other characters are the age at which first branching occurs, and specific leaf area. However, the importance of some characters changes under drought, such as the date at which the maximum leaf size occurs.
The model was validated with the limited number of datasets available; good agreement between simulated and measured values was obtained for a range of cultivars in a range of environments. Further validation is necessary, however, before widespread application. The factors controlling leaf size and times of branching were identified as areas in which there is a scarcity of knowledge, and to which future cassava physiology research should be directed.
GUMCAS provides the basis for the CROPSIM-Cassava model which is included in the DSSAT set of crop models.
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