Abstract. A model of photosynthesis (PGEN) is presented. The model assumes that optimal use is made of the leaf nitrogen available for partitioning between the carboxylase and thylakoid components. This results in predictions of Rubisco and chlorophyll concentrations very similar to those measured elsewhere. A function is incorporated which represents the detrimental effects of negative leaf water potentials on the Calvin cycle, producing a quantitative and mechanistic trade-off between CO2 entering, and H2O leaving, the leaf. Thus, an optimal stomatal conductance and associated internal partial pressure of CO2 exists for any given set of environmental conditions. The model calculates this optimal state for the leaf, which is its output. The model was subjected to changes in the following parameters: soil water potential, irradiance, ambient CO2 partial pressure, leaf temperature, leaf-to-air vapour pressure deficit, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, leaf nitrogen content, root dry weight and leaf width. These perturbations resulted in changes in predicted optimal conductance which were very similar to what has been observed. In general, as the capacity of the leaf to fix CO2 increased, so did the predicted optimal conductance, with the internal partial pressure of CO2 being maintained close to 22Pa.