Simulation of the phenological development of wheat and maize at the global scale

L.G.J. van Bussel*, E. Stehfest, S. Siebert, C. Müller, F. Ewert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


To derive location-specific parameters that reflect the geographic differences among cultivars in vernalization requirements, sensitivity to day length (photoperiod) and temperature, which can be used to simulate the phenological development of wheat and maize at the global scale. Location: Global. Methods: Based on crop calendar observations and literature describing the large-scale patterns of phenological characteristics of cultivars, we developed algorithms to compute location-specific parameters to represent this large-scale pattern. Vernalization requirements were related to the duration and coldness of winter, sensitivity to day length was assumed to be represented by the minimum and maximum day lengths occurring at a location, and sensitivity to temperature was related to temperature conditions during the vegetative development phase of the crop. Results: Application of the derived location-specific parameters resulted in high agreement between simulated and observed lengths of the cropping period. Agreement was especially high for wheat, with mean absolute errors of less than 3 weeks. In the main maize cropping regions, cropping periods were over- and underestimated by 0.5-1.5 months. We also found that interannual variability in simulated wheat harvest dates was more realistic when accounting for photoperiod effects. Main conclusions: The methodology presented here provides a good basis for modelling the phenological characteristics of cultivars at the global scale. We show that current global patterns of growing season length as described in cropping calendars can be largely reproduced by phenology models if location-specific parameters are derived from temperature and day length indicators. Growing seasons can be modelled more accurately for wheat than for maize, especially in warm regions. Our method for computing parameters for phenology models from temperature and day length offers opportunities to improve the simulation of crop productivity by crop simulation models developed for large spatial areas and for long-term climate impact projections that account for adaptation in the selection of varieties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1029
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • climate-change
  • winter-wheat
  • annual crops
  • photoperiod sensitivity
  • geographical variation
  • temperature
  • responses
  • adaptation
  • cultivars
  • model


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