An empirical, Bayesian approach to modelling crop yield: Maize in USA

Shirley, Raphael, Pope, Edward, Bartlett, Myles, Oliver, Seb, Quadrianto, Novi, Hurley, Peter, Duivenvoorden, Steven, Rooney, Phil, Barrett, Adam B, Kent, Chris and Bacon, James (2020) An empirical, Bayesian approach to modelling crop yield: Maize in USA. Environmental Research Communications, 2 (2). pp. 1-31. ISSN 2515-7620

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We apply an empirical, data-driven approach for describing crop yield as a function of monthly temperature and precipitation by employing generative probabilistic models with parameters determined through Bayesian inference. Our approach is applied to state-scale maize yield and meteorological data for the US Corn Belt from 1981 to 2014 as an exemplar, but would be readily transferable to other crops, locations and spatial scales. Experimentation with a number of models shows that maize growth rates can be characterised by a two-dimensional Gaussian function of temperature and precipitation with monthly contributions accumulated over the growing period. This approach accounts for non-linear growth responses to the individual meteorological variables, and allows for interactions between them. Our models correctly identify that temperature and precipitation have the largest impact on yield in the six months prior to the harvest, in agreement with the typical growing season for US maize (April to September). Maximal growth rates occur for monthly mean temperature 18 °C–19 °C, corresponding to a daily maximum temperature of 24 °C–25 °C (in broad agreement with previous work) and monthly total precipitation 115 mm. Our approach also provides a self-consistent way of investigating climate change impacts on current US maize varieties in the absence of adaptation measures. Keeping precipitation and growing area fixed, a temperature increase of 2 °C, relative to 1981–2014, results in the mean yield decreasing by 8%, while the yield variance increases by a factor of around 3. We thus provide a flexible, data-driven framework for exploring the impacts of natural climate variability and climate change on globally significant crops based on their observed behaviour. In concert with other approaches, this can help inform the development of adaptation strategies that will ensure food security under a changing climate.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: Q Science > QC Physics
Depositing User: Amelia Redman
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2020 08:15
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 12:47

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