Plant Methods (Oct 2021)

Axial variation in flexural stiffness of plant stem segments: measurement methods and the influence of measurement uncertainty

  • Nathanael Martin-Nelson,
  • Brandon Sutherland,
  • Michael Yancey,
  • Chung Shan Liao,
  • Christopher J. Stubbs,
  • Douglas D. Cook

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 17, no. 1
pp. 1 – 11


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Abstract Background Flexural three-point bending tests are useful for characterizing the mechanical properties of plant stems. These tests can be performed with minimal sample preparation, thus allowing tests to be performed relatively quickly. The best-practice for such tests involves long spans with supports and load placed at nodes. This approach typically provides only one flexural stiffness measurement per specimen. However, by combining flexural tests with analytic equations, it is possible to solve for the mechanical characteristics of individual stem segments. Results A method is presented for using flexural tests to obtain estimates of flexural stiffness of individual segments. This method pairs physical test data with analytic models to obtain a system of equations. The solution of this system of equations provides values of flexural stiffness for individual stalk segments. Uncertainty in the solved values for flexural stiffness were found to be strongly dependent upon measurement errors. Row-wise scaling of the system of equations reduced the influence of measurement error. Of many possible test combinations, the most advantageous set of tests for performing these measurements were identified. Relationships between measurement uncertainty and solution uncertainty were provided for two different testing methods. Conclusions The methods presented in this paper can be used to measure the axial variation in flexural stiffness of plant stem segments. However, care must be taken to account for the influence of measurement error as the individual segment method amplifies measurement error. An alternative method involving aggregate flexural stiffness values does not amplify measurement error, but provides lower spatial resolution.