Bioenergy Sorghum Crop Model Predicts VPD-Limited Transpiration Traits Enhance Biomass Yield in Water-Limited Environments. Academic Article uri icon


  • Bioenergy sorghum is targeted for production in water-limited annual cropland therefore traits that improve plant water capture, water use efficiency, and resilience to water deficit are necessary to maximize productivity. A crop modeling framework, APSIM, was adapted to predict the growth and biomass yield of energy sorghum and to identify potentially useful traits for crop improvement. APSIM simulations of energy sorghum development and biomass accumulation replicated results from field experiments across multiple years, patterns of rainfall, and irrigation schemes. Modeling showed that energy sorghum's long duration of vegetative growth increased water capture and biomass yield by ~30% compared to short season crops in a water-limited production region. Additionally, APSIM was extended to enable modeling of VPD-limited transpiration traits that reduce crop water use under high vapor pressure deficits (VPDs). The response of transpiration rate to increasing VPD was modeled as a linear response until a VPD threshold was reached, at which the slope of the response decreases, representing a range of responses to VPD observed in sorghum germplasm. Simulation results indicated that the VPD-limited transpiration trait is most beneficial in hot and dry regions of production where crops are exposed to extended periods without rainfall during the season or to a terminal drought. In these environments, slower but more efficient transpiration increases biomass yield and prevents or delays the exhaustion of soil water and onset of leaf senescence. The VPD-limited transpiration responses observed in sorghum germplasm increased biomass accumulation by 20% in years with lower summer rainfall, and the ability to drastically reduce transpiration under high VPD conditions could increase biomass by 6% on average across all years. This work indicates that the productivity and resilience of bioenergy sorghum grown in water-limited environments could be further enhanced by development of genotypes with optimized VPD-limited transpiration traits and deployment of these crops in water limited growing environments. The energy sorghum model and VPD-limited transpiration trait implementation are made available to simulate performance in other target environments.

published proceedings

  • Front Plant Sci

altmetric score

  • 1.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Truong, S. K., McCormick, R. F., & Mullet, J. E.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Truong, Sandra K||McCormick, Ryan F||Mullet, John E

publication date

  • January 2017