EGU General Assembly 2022
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Quantitative comparison of root water uptake simulated by functional-structural root architecture models

Andrea Schnepf1, Valentin Couvreur2, Benjamin Delory3, Claude Doussan4, Mathieu Javaux1,2, Deepanshu Khare1,11, Axelle Koch5, Timo Koch6, Christian Kuppe7, Daniel Leitner8, Guillaume Lobet1,11, Félicien Meunier9, Johannes Postma7, Ernst Schäfer10, Jan Vanderborght1,11, and Harry Vereecken1,11
Andrea Schnepf et al.
  • 1Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, IBG-3 Agrosphäre, Jülich, Germany (
  • 2Earth and Life Institute, Agronomy, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 3Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Universitätsallee 1, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany
  • 4UMR 1114 EMMAH, INRA/UAPV, 84914, Avignon cedex 9, France
  • 5Earth and Life Institute, Environmental Sciences, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 6Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Oslo, Norway
  • 7Institut für Bio- und Geowissenschaften: Plant Sciences (IBG-2), Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Wilhelm-Johnen-Str., D-52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 8Simulationswerkstatt, Ortmayrstrasse 20, A-4060 Leonding, Austria
  • 9CAVElab - Computational and Applied Vegetation Ecology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • 10School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nottingham, Mathematical Sciences Building, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom
  • 11International Soil Modelling Consortium ISMC, Jülich, Germany

3D models of root growth, architecture and function are becoming important tools to aid the design of agricultural management schemes and the selection of beneficial root traits. While benchmarking is common for water and solute transport models in soil, 3D root-soil interaction models have not yet been systematically analysed. Several interacting processes might induce disagreement between models: root growth, sink term definitions of root water and solute uptake and representation of the rhizosphere. Schnepf et al. (2020) proposed a framework for quantitatively comparing such models. It builds upon benchmark scenarios that test individual components, followed by benchmark scenarios for the coupled root-rhizosphere-soil system.

Here we present the results of benchmarking different well-known models (“simulators”) with respect to water flow in soil, water flow in roots, and water flow and root water uptake in a coupled soil-root system for the case of a given prescribed root architecture as observed from an MRI experiment. The participating simulators are

CPlantBox and DuMux (Koch et al. 2021; Mai et al. 2019), R-SWMS (Javaux et al. 2008), OpenSimRoot (Postma et al. 2017) and ArchiSimple, RootTyp and SRI (Beudez et al. 2013; Pagès et al. 2014; Pagès et al. 2004).

In the benchmark scenarios that represent individual modules, the different simulators solved the same mathematical model but with different numerical approaches; all perform well with respect to the given analytical reference solution. For the coupled problem of root water uptake from a drying soil, the different simulators make different choices for the coupling of the different sub-problems. Thus, the results of the different simulators show a larger heterogeneity amongst each other.

We expect that this benchmarking will result in improved models, with which we can simulate various scenarios with greater confidence, avoiding that future work is based on accidental results caused by bugs, numerical errors or conceptual misunderstandings and will set a standard for model development.

Beudez N, Doussan C, Lefeuve-Mesgouez G, Mesgouez A (2013) Procedia Environmental Sciences 19: 37-46. doi:

Javaux M, Schröder T, Vanderborght J, Vereecken H (2008) Vadose Zone Journal 7: 1079-1088.

Koch T, Wu H, Schneider M (2021) Journal of Computational Physics: 110823.

Mai TH, Schnepf A, Vereecken H, Vanderborght J (2019) Plant and Soil 439: 273-292. doi: 10.1007/s11104-018-3890-4.

Pagès L, Bécel C, Boukcim H, Moreau D, Nguyen C, Voisin A-S (2014) Ecological Modelling 290: 76-84.

Pagès L, Vercambre G, Drouet J-L, Lecompte F, Collet C, Le Bot J (2004) Plant and Soil 258: 103-119.

Postma JA, Kuppe C, Owen MR, Mellor N, Griffiths M, Bennett MJ, Lynch JP, Watt M (2017) New Phytologist 215: 1274-1286.

Schnepf A, Black CK, Couvreur V, et al. (2020) Frontiers in Plant Science 11.

How to cite: Schnepf, A., Couvreur, V., Delory, B., Doussan, C., Javaux, M., Khare, D., Koch, A., Koch, T., Kuppe, C., Leitner, D., Lobet, G., Meunier, F., Postma, J., Schäfer, E., Vanderborght, J., and Vereecken, H.: Quantitative comparison of root water uptake simulated by functional-structural root architecture models, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8524,, 2022.