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The relation between plant growth and respiration: A thermodynamic model

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A thermodynamic model describing the relation between plant growth and respiration rates is derived from mass-and enthalpy-balance equations. The specific growth rate and the substrate carbon conversion efficiency are described as functions of the metabolic heat rate, the rate of CO2 production, the mean oxidation state of the substrate carbon produced by photosynthesis, and enthalpy changes for conversion of photosynthate to biomass and CO2. The relation of this new model to previous models based only on mass-balance equations is explored. Metabolic heat rate is shown to be a useful additional measure of respiration rates in plant tissues because it leads to a more explicit description of energy relations. Preliminary data on three Zea mays (L.) cultivars are reported. The model suggests new rationales for plant selection, breeding and genetic engineering that could lead to development of plants with more desirable growth rates.

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Correspondence to Lee D. Hansen.

Additional information

The authors thank Deann K. Taylor for assistance with laboratory work, Clifford W. Hansen for discussions concerning the form of the equations presented and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. and Dole Packaged Foods for partial financial support of the work.

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Hansen, L.D., Hopkin, M.S., Rank, D.R. et al. The relation between plant growth and respiration: A thermodynamic model. Planta 194, 77–85 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00201037

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Key words

  • Energy efficiency
  • Growth
  • Metabolic heat rate
  • Model (thermodynamic)
  • Respiration
  • Zea