Adapting crop management practices to climate change: Modeling optimal solutions at the field scale

N. Lehmann, R. Finger, T. Klein, P. Calanca, A. Walter

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96 Citations (Scopus)


Climate change will alter the environmental conditions for crop growth and require adjustments in management practices at the field scale. In this paper, we analyzed the impacts of two different climate change scenarios on optimal field management practices in winterwheat and grain maize production with case studies from Switzerland. Management options included nitrogen fertilization (amount, timing and allocation) as well as irrigation. Optimal solutions that maximize the farmer’s utility were sought with the help of a bioeconomic modeling system that integrated the process-based crop growth model CropSyst into an economic decision model. The latter accounted not only for the crop specific average profit margins, but also for production risks, reflecting the utility (expressed as the certainty equivalent) of a risk-averse farmer’s management decisions at field scale. In view of the non-linearity and complexity of the problem, we used a genetic algorithm as optimization technique. For grain maize, our results showed that climate change will foster the use of irrigation, not only at sites prone to water limitation already under current climatic conditions, but more in general for climate change scenarios projecting a substantial decrease in summer precipitation. For winterwheat, irrigation was never identified as an optimal management option. For both crops and sites, climate change reduced the optimum nitrogen fertilization amount and decreased for winterwheat the number of fertilization applications. In all cases, the farmer’s certainty equivalent decreased between 7% and 25% under climate change, implying negative impacts on winterwheat and grain maize production even under the assumption of an adjustment of the optimum management practices
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-65
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • winter-wheat production
  • genetic algorithms
  • change scenarios
  • simulation-model
  • production risk
  • yield
  • productivity
  • systems
  • maize
  • optimization


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