Combining Process Modelling and LAI Observations to Diagnose Winter Wheat Nitrogen Status and Forecast Yield

Andrew Revill, Vasileios Myrgiotis, Anna Florence, Stephen Hoad, Robert Rees, Alasdair Macarthur, Mathew Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate, nitrogen (N) and leaf area index (LAI) are key determinants of crop yield. N additions can enhance yield but must be managed efficiently to reduce pollution. Complex process models estimate N status by simulating soil-crop N interactions, but such models require extensive inputs that are seldom available. Through model-data fusion (MDF), we combine climate and LAI time-series with an intermediate-complexity model to infer leaf N and yield. The DALEC-Crop model was calibrated for wheat leaf N and yields across field experiments covering N applications ranging from 0 to 200 kg N ha−1 in Scotland, UK. Requiring daily meteorological inputs, this model simulates crop C cycle responses to LAI, N and climate. The model, which includes a leaf N-dilution function, was calibrated across N treatments based on LAI observations, and tested at validation plots. We showed that a single parameterization varying only in leaf N could simulate LAI development and yield across all treatments—the mean normalized root-mean-square-error (NRMSE) for yield was 10%. Leaf N was accurately retrieved by the model (NRMSE = 6%). Yield could also be reasonably estimated (NRMSE = 14%) if LAI data are available for assimilation during periods of typical N application (April and May). Our MDF approach generated robust leaf N content estimates and timely yield predictions that could complement existing agricultural technologies. Moreover, EO-derived LAI products at high spatial and temporal resolutions provides a means to apply our approach regionally. Testing yield predictions from this approach over agricultural fields is a critical next step to determine broader utility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2021


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