How does this project define virtual crop modeling?

The phrase “virtual crop modeling” is defined here as the use of dynamic crop growth simulation models to hypothesize plant genetic traits (phenology, process characteristics, and plant architecture) that can potentially enhance crop growth and yield in defined target environments (weather, soil, inputs, management practices, etc.). To the extent possible, there should be good links between the genetic information (DNA-based markers, QTLs, and genes) and the model-simulated phenotype (performance and processes). This requires that geneticists and plant breeders have a good understanding of the phenotypic outcomes of given genotypic traits, in order to mimic these in crop growth simulation models. Simulations need realism in the range/degree of genetic traits and phenotypic outcomes that correspond to observed limits of genetic and phenotypic expression. An advantage of crop growth simulation models is their ability to synthesize and integrate the effects of many individual traits, through the crop’s daily carbon, nitrogen, and water balances over the entire season to predict the final phenotypic outcome.

How is the virtual crop modeling different from other crop modeling?

The use of the phrase “virtual crop modeling” may be a bit surprising to many crop modelers who for more than 20 years have used crop simulation models to simulate hypothetical genetic improvement in traits that might contribute to yield. However, with the added concern for adaptation to climate change, coupled with the advent of new genetic tools and improved crop simulation models, we conclude there are good reasons and potential for using crop simulation models with weather data to evaluate genetic traits that mightimprove yield and other measures of performance of crops under stressed environments, either over the long-term for many types of historical or future scenario weather conditions or for specific years or specific target weather, soils, and management environments.