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Training School – Plant Sensors and Modelling

Training School – Plant Sensors and Modelling

The COST-action FruitCREWS recently organized an enlightening training school on Plant sensors and modelling, held in Ghent, Belgium, from May 27-29, 2024. Hosted by the Laboratory of Plant Ecology at Ghent University’s Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, the event brought together a diverse group of thirty-seven early-stage researchers and members of the COST-action FruitCREWS from sixteen different countries.

Training overview: The primary goal of the training school was to equip participants with a robust theoretical background in the application of plant sensors and mechanistic plant modelling. Additionally, the program aimed to provide practical, hands-on experience in using these tools to analyse fruit tree responses, ultimately directed towards integrating these insights into more effective irrigation scheduling tools.

Key activities: Over the course of three days, participants delved into a variety of key topics through a balanced mix of theoretical lectures and practical hands-on exercises. The agenda included:

  • Basics in plant sensors with a specific focus on sap flow sensors and point dendrometers
  • Overview of the PlantHub cloud service for data collection and visualisation of plant measurements
  • Introduction to mechanistic plant modelling and the PhytoSim modelling and simulation software
  • Dedicated presentations, showcasing mechanistic plant models suitable for irrigation scheduling
  • Practical application of models using sample datasets and participants’ own datasets to investigate fruit tree responses.

Participants’ engagement: The training school saw enthusiastic participation from all researchers. Attendees actively engaged during the tutorials and collaborated and exchanged ideas during the hands-on practical sessions. The interactive format fostered a dynamic learning environment, encouraging participants to apply mechanistic plant modelling knowledge to their collected datasets.

Speakers and trainers: The training was led by four experts in the field:

  • Dr. Dirk De Pauw from Plant AnalytiX, Belgium
  • Dr. Dario Constantinescu from INRAe Avignon, France
  • Dr. Gilles Vercambre from INRAe Avignon, France
  • Prof. Kathy Steppe from the Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Belgium

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Many highlighted the value of the hands-on sessions and the opportunity to work with leading experts. The practical sessions were incredibly beneficial, allowing the participants to directly apply what they learned and see the results firsthand.

Outcomes: The training school not only enhanced participants’ skills in plant sensors and modelling but also set the stage for future collaborations. Discussions on follow-up activities, particularly through working group 2 on modelling, underscored the potential for future collaboration. The event concluded on a high note, with some attendees expressing their commitment to integrate the acquired knowledge into their respective projects.

Conclusion: The FruitCREWS training school on Plant sensors and modelling was a great success, marked by fruitful collaboration and active participation. The blend of theoretical insights and practical exercises provided a comprehensive learning experience, paving the way for future advancements in plant sensor technology and modelling for improved irrigation scheduling.