Potential yield simulated by global gridded crop models: using a process-based emulator to explain their differences

Bruno Ringeval*, Christoph Müller, Thomas A.M. Pugh, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Philippe Ciais, Christian Folberth, Wenfeng Liu, Philippe Debaeke, Sylvain Pellerin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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How global gridded crop models (GGCMs) differ in their simulation of potential yield and reasons for those differences have never been assessed. The GGCM Intercomparison (GGCMI) offers a good framework for this assessment. Here, we built an emulator (called SMM for simple mechanistic model) of GGCMs based on generic and simplified formalism. The SMM equations describe crop phenology by a sum of growing degree days, canopy radiation absorption by the Beer Lambert law, and its conversion into aboveground biomass by a radiation use efficiency (RUE). We fitted the parameters of this emulator against gridded aboveground maize biomass at the end of the growing season simulated by eight different GGCMs in a given year (2000). Our assumption is that the simple set of equations of SMM, after calibration, could reproduce the response of most GGCMs so that differences between GGCMs can be attributed to the parameters related to processes captured by the emulator. Despite huge differences between GGCMs, we show that if we fit both a parameter describing the thermal requirement for leaf emergence by adjusting its value to each grid-point in space, as done by GGCM modellers following the GGCMI protocol, and a GGCM-dependent globally uniform RUE, then the simple set of equations of the SMM emulator is sufficient to reproduce the spatial distribution of the original aboveground biomass simulated by most GGCMs. The grain filling is simulated in SMM by considering a fixedin-time fraction of net primary productivity allocated to the grains (frac) once a threshold in leaves number (nthresh) is reached. Once calibrated, these two parameters allow for the capture of the relationship between potential yield and final aboveground biomass of each GGCM. It is particularly important as the divergence among GGCMs is larger for yield than for aboveground biomass. Thus, we showed that the divergence between GGCMs can be summarized by the differences in a few parameters. Our simple but mechanistic model could also be an interesting tool to test new developments in order to improve the simulation of potential yield at the global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1656
Number of pages18
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. This research was supported by INRAE (In-stitut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement) and the AgroEnv division through a Pari Scien-tifique 2020. We thank David Vidal and Lionel Jordan-Meille for discussions that formed the basis of the simple mechanistic model used in this paper, Marko Kvakić for helpful discussions at the beginning of this study, and Mark Irvine for his help with the computing aspects. Modeling and analysis were performed in using Python (Python Software Foundation. Python Language Reference, version 2.7., available at http://www.python.org, last access: January 2020).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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