PS Webinar Series: Mathematical Modelling of Moisture Transport in Plant Cuticles

Abstract - Food production needs to increase significantly and water loss from plants may hold one key, especially relevant in a time of climate change. The plant leaf cuticle is the final defence of leaves in drought and at night, and so by understanding water movement in the leaf with mathematical modelling techniques, we can move towards future proofing our crops and native plant ecology. We identify new mechanisms of water movement properties of plant cuticles and utilise this understanding to create a novel mathematical model. We model water sorption in astomatous isolated cuticles, utilising three separate pathways of cellulose, aqueous pores and lipophilic, incorporating partial differential equations for diffusion and adsorption. The results of the model compare well to data both over time and increasing humidity. The sensitivity analysis shows that the grouping of parameters influencing plant species variations has the largest effect on sorption, the parameters influencing cellulose are very influential, and aqueous pores less so but still relevant. We also discuss a short experiment on deliquescent salts on plant leaves, where salts present may promote foliar water uptake and penetration of agrochemicals.

Biography - Eloise Tredenick has research interests in mathematical modelling and complex systems, within an applied and computational mathematics setting. She completed a PhD in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, in 2018. The thesis was supervised by Prof. Troy Farrell, Prof. Scott McCue and Dr Alison Forster and titled “Mathematical Modelling of Ionic Agrochemical Diffusion in Plant Cuticles: A Mechanistic Approach.” In 2019, she worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher at QUT working on the project “Evaporating Droplets on Inclined Plant Leaves and Synthetic Surfaces: Insights from Experiments and Mathematical Models”. In December 2019, started working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ANU Node under the supervision of Graham Farquhar. She is working on two projects, one on modelling water transport in plant cuticles, titled "Dynamics of Moisture Transport in Plant Cuticles: The Role of Cellulose", the other on water sorption of hygroscopic particles on plant leaves, titled "Materials on Plant Leaf Surfaces are Deliquescent in a Variety of Environments". She recently won two awards - WIMSIG Cheryl E. Praeger Travel Award for women in mathematics 2020, and the QUT Executive Dean's Commendation for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis 2020. Eloise obtained her Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Radiation Technology) at QUT in 2006, Graduate Certificate in Mathematics at QUT in 2013, Master of Mathematics (coursework) at QUT in 2014 and PhD in Applied and Computational Mathematics at 2018 at QUT.