Improving wheat simulation capabilities in Australia from a cropping systems perspective. III. The integrated wheat model (I-WHEAT).

H. Meinke, G.L. Hammer, H. van Keulen, R. Rabbinge

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Previous work has identified several short-comings in the ability of four spring wheat and one barley model to simulate crop processes and resource utilization. This can have important implications when such models are used within systems models where final soil water and nitrogen conditions of one crop define the starting conditions of the following crop. In an attempt to overcome these limitations and to reconcile a range of modelling approaches, existing model components that worked demonstrably well were combined with new components for aspects where existing capabilities were inadequate. This resulted in the Integrated Wheat Model (I_WHEAT), which was developed as a module of the cropping systems model APSIM. To increase predictive capability of the model, process detail was reduced, where possible, by replacing groups of processes with conservative, biologically meaningful parameters. I_WHEAT does not contain a soil water or soil nitrogen balance. These are present as other modules of APSIM. In I_WHEAT, yield is simulated using a linear increase in harvest index whereby nitrogen or water limitations can lead to early termination of grainfilling and hence cessation of harvest index increase. Dry matter increase is calculated either from the amount of intercepted radiation and radiation conversion efficiency or from the amount of water transpired and transpiration efficiency, depending on the most limiting resource. Leaf area and tiller formation are calculated from thermal time and a cultivar specific phyllochron interval. Nitrogen limitation first reduces leaf area and then affects radiation conversion efficiency as it becomes more severe. Water or nitrogen limitations result in reduced leaf expansion, accelerated leaf senescence or tiller death. This reduces the radiation load on the crop canopy (i.e. demand for water) and can make nitrogen available for translocation to other organs. Sensitive feedbacks between light interception and dry matter accumulation are avoided by having environmental effects acting directly on leaf area development, rather than via biomass production. This makes the model more stable across environments without losing the interactions between the different external influences. When comparing model output with models tested previously using data from a wide range of agro-climatic conditions, yield and biomass predictions were equal to the best of those models, but improvements could be demonstrated for simulating leaf area dynamics in response to water and nitrogen supply, kernel nitrogen content, and total water and nitrogen use. I_WHEAT does not require calibration for any of the environments tested. Further model improvement should concentrate on improving phenology simulations, a more thorough derivation of coefficients to describe leaf area development and a better quantification of some processes related to nitrogen dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-116
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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