Simulation of winter wheat yield and its variability in different climates of Europe: A comparison of eight crop growth models

Taru Palosuo, Kurt Christian Kersebaum, Carlos Angulo, Petr Hlavinka, Marco Moriondo, Jørgen E. Olesen, Ravi H. Patil, Françoise Ruget, Christian Rumbaur, Jozef Takáč, Miroslav Trnka, Marco Bindi, Bariş Çaldaĝ, Frank Ewert, Roberto Ferrise, Wilfried Mirschel, Levent Şaylan, Bernard Šiška, Reimund Rötter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

407 Citations (Scopus)


We compared the performance of eight widely used, easily accessible and well-documented crop growth simulation models (APES, CROPSYST, DAISY, DSSAT, FASSET, HERMES, STICS and WOFOST) for winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) during 49 growing seasons at eight sites in northwestern, Central and southeastern Europe. The aim was to examine how different process-based crop models perform at the field scale when provided with a limited set of information for model calibration and simulation, reflecting the typical use of models for large-scale applications, and to present the uncertainties related to this type of model application. Data used in the simulations consisted of daily weather statistics, information on soil properties, information on crop phenology for each cultivar, and basic crop and soil management information.Our results showed that none of the models perfectly reproduced recorded observations at all sites and in all years, and none could unequivocally be labelled robust and accurate in terms of yield prediction across different environments and crop cultivars with only minimum calibration. The best performance regarding yield estimation was for DAISY and DSSAT, for which the RMSE values were lowest (1428 and 1603kgha-1) and the index of agreement (0.71 and 0.74) highest. CROPSYST systematically underestimated yields (MBE - 1186kgha-1), whereas HERMES, STICS and WOFOST clearly overestimated them (MBE 1174, 1272 and 1213kgha-1, respectively). APES, DAISY, HERMES, STICS and WOFOST furnished high total above-ground biomass estimates, whereas CROPSYST, DSSAT and FASSET provided low total above-ground estimates. Consequently, DSSAT and FASSET produced very high harvest index values, followed by HERMES and WOFOST. APES and DAISY, on the other hand, returned low harvest index values. In spite of phenological observations being provided, the calibration results for wheat phenology, i.e. estimated dates of anthesis and maturity, were surprisingly variable, with the largest RMSE for anthesis being generated by APES (20.2 days) and for maturity by HERMES (12.6).The wide range of grain yield estimates provided by the models for all sites and years reflects substantial uncertainties in model estimates achieved with only minimum calibration. Mean predictions from the eight models, on the other hand, were in good agreement with measured data. This applies to both results across all sites and seasons as well as to prediction of observed yield variability at single sites - a very important finding that supports the use of multi-model estimates rather than reliance on single models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme212535


    • Climatic variability
    • Crop growth model
    • Model comparison
    • Simulation
    • Winter wheat
    • Yield prediction


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