How do plants sense the nearness and presence of neighbors? If there are neighbors, how does the morphology of many crop plants change in response? How do these alterations change the ability of plants to intercept solar radiation and perform photosynthesis? These questions are all part of the exciting subject area of crop physiology. Crop physiology is the investigation of the plant processes driving growth, development, and economic production by crop plants.
Crop physiologists use basic and applied research to understand how plants operate. They focus on whole plants and plant communities more so than individual plant organs or cells because most of the processes that control yield operate at the whole plant level with an intimate interaction with the environment. Consequently most crop physiology research is conducted in the field or in near-field environments of greenhouses or growth chambers. Crop physiologists examine primary production including photosynthesis, respiration, nitrogen fixation and nutrient uptake. How produced assimilates are utilized for growth and yield attainment are also analyzed. Further, how plants and these processes are affected by the environment, whether biotic or abiotic, is of major importance. Research in crop physiology has had major impacts on agricultural practices and our knowledge of life as we know it. Most of all, being a crop physiologist is fun!