Dr Cyrille Violle
French National Centre for Scientific Research
Seminar: Crop species as model species for ecology, wild species as model species for agronomy?
A fundamental question in biology is how constraints drive phenotypic changes and the diversification of life. We know little about the role of these constraints on crop domestication, nor how artificial selection can escape them. In this talk, I claim that wild species can become model species for crop science, notably by applying macroecological laws and the theoretical corpus of functional ecology to crop species. More specifically, I question whether crop domestication has shifted ecophysiological and biophysical traits related to resource acquisition, use and partitioning, and how trade-offs between them have constrained domestication and can limit future improvements in both optimal and sub-optimal conditions. At the community level, I present the challenges of applying community assembly rules to crop mixtures. In turn, crop species are possible exceptions to ecological rules, which make them ideal model for ecology. At the species level, any deviation from macroecological laws is a good test of their (lack of) universality. At the community level, the fact that agrosystems are less sensitive to stochasticity makes them a good model to establish community assembly rules and to reveal the ecophysiological mechanisms underlying plant-plant interactions. Altogether, the comparison of wild and crop species represents a unique opportunity to transfer knowledge from ecology and evolutionary biology to crop science.