New tools are required to address the challenge of relating plant hormone levels, hormone responses, wall biochemistry and wall mechanical properties to organ-scale growth. Current vertex-based models (applied in other contexts) can be unsuitable for simulating the growth of elongated organs such as roots because of the large aspect ratio of the cells, and these models fail to capture the mechanical properties of cell walls in sufficient detail. We describe a vertex-element model which resolves individual cells and includes anisotropic non-linear viscoelastic mechanical properties of cell walls and cell division whilst still being computationally efficient. We show that detailed consideration of the cell walls in the plane of a 2D simulation is necessary when cells have large aspect ratio, such as those in the root elongation zone of Arabidopsis thaliana, in order to avoid anomalous transverse swelling. We explore how differences in the mechanical properties of cells across an organ can result in bending and how cellulose microfibril orientation affects macroscale growth. We also demonstrate that the model can be used to simulate growth on realistic geometries, for example that of the primary root apex, using moderate computational resources. The model shows how macroscopic root shape can be sensitive to fine-scale cellular geometries.
Keywords: anisotropy; microfibrils; multiscale; simulation; viscosity.