Crop growth and soil water fluxes at erosion-affected arable sites: Using weighing lysimeter data for model intercomparison

Jannis Groh*, Efstathios Diamantopoulos, Xiaohong Duan, Frank Ewert, Michael Herbst, Maja Holbak, Bahareh Kamali, Kurt-Christian Kersebaum, Matthias Kuhnert, Gunnar Lischeid, Claas Nendel, Eckart Priesack, Joerg Steidl, Michael Sommer, Thomas Puetz, Harry Vereecken, Evelyn Wallor, Tobias K. D. Weber, Martin Wegehenkel, Lutz WeihermuellerHorst H. Gerke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Agroecosystem models need to reliably simulate all biophysical processes that control crop growth, particularly the soil water fluxes and nutrient dynamics. As a result of the erosion history, truncated and colluvial soil profiles coexist in arable fields. The erosion-affected field-scale soil spatial heterogeneity may limit agroecosystem model predictions. The objective was to identify the variation in the importance of soil properties and soil profile modifications in agroecosystem models for both agronomic and environmental performance. Four lysimeters with different soil types were used that cover the range of soil variability in an erosion-affected hummocky agricultural landscape. Twelve models were calibrated on crop phenological stages, and model performance was tested against observed grain yield, aboveground biomass, leaf area index, actual evapotranspiration, drainage, and soil water content. Despite considering identical input data, the predictive capability among models was highly diverse. Neither a single crop model nor the multi-model mean was able to capture the observed differences between the four soil profiles in agronomic and environmental variables. The model's sensitivity to soil-related parameters was apparently limited and dependent on model structure and parameterization. Information on phenology alone seemed insufficient to calibrate crop models. The results demonstrated model-specific differences in the impact of soil variability and suggested that soil matters in predictive agroecosystem models. Soil processes need to receive greater attention in field-scale agroecosystem modeling; high-precision weighable lysimeters can provide valuable data for improving the description of soil-vegetation-atmosphere process in the tested models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20058
Number of pages18
JournalVadose zone journal
Issue number1
Early online date8 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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