Impact of the spatial resolution of climatic data and soil physical properties on regional corn yield predictions using the STICS crop model.

Jégo, G., Pattey, E., Mesbah, S.M., Liu, J., and Duchesne, I. (2015). "Impact of the spatial resolution of climatic data and soil physical properties on regional corn yield predictions using the STICS crop model.", International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 41, pp. 11-22. doi : 10.1016/j.jag.2015.04.013  Access to full text


The assimilation of Earth observation (EO) data into crop models has proven to be an efficient way to improve yield prediction at a regional scale by estimating key unknown crop management practices. However, the efficiency of prediction depends on the uncertainty associated with the data provided to crop models, particularly climatic data and soil physical properties. In this study, the performance of the STICS (Simulateur mulTIdisciplinaire pour les Cultures Standard) crop model for predicting corn yield after assimilation of leaf area index derived from EO data was evaluated under different scenarios. The scenarios were designed to examine the impact of using fine-resolution soil physical properties, as well as the impact of using climatic data from either one or four weather stations across the region of interest. The results indicate that when only one weather station was used, the average annual yield by producer was predicted well (absolute error <5%), but the spatial variability lacked accuracy (root mean square error = 1.3 t ha-1). The model root mean square error for yield prediction was highly correlated with the distance between the weather stations and the fields, for distances smaller than 10 km, and reached 0.5 t ha-1 for a 5-km distance when fine-resolution soil properties were used. When four weather stations were used, no significant improvement in model performance was observed. This was because of a marginal decrease (30%) in the average distance between fields and weather stations (from 10 to 7 km). However, the yield predictions were improved by approximately 15% with fine-resolution soil properties regardless of the number of weather stations used. The impact of the uncertainty associated with the EO-derived soil textures and the impact of alterations in rainfall distribution were also evaluated. A variation of about 10% in any of the soil physical textures resulted in a change in dry yield of 0.4 t ha-1. Changes in rainfall distribution between two abundant rainfalls during the growing season led to a significant change in yield (0.5 t ha-1 on average). Our results highlight the importance of using fine-resolution gridded daily precipitation data to capture spatial variations of rainfall as well as using fine-resolution soil properties instead of coarse-resolution soil properties from the Canadian soil dataset, especially for regions with high pedodiversity.

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