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Assimilation of remotely sensed soil moisture and vegetation with a crop simulation model for maize yield prediction

Ines, Amor Valeriano M.; Das, Narendra N.; Hansen, James W.; Njoku, Eni G.

To improve the prediction of crop yields at an aggregate scale, we developed a data assimilation-crop modeling framework that incorporates remotely sensed soil moisture and leaf area index (LAI) into a crop model using sequential data assimilation. The core of the framework is an Ensemble Kalman Filter (EnKF) used to control crop model runs, assimilate remote sensing (RS) data and update model state variables. We modified the Decision Support System for Agro-technology Transfer – Cropping System Model (DSSAT-CSM)-Maize model (Jones et al., 2003) to be able to stop and start simulations at any given time in the growing season, such that the EnKF can update model state variables as RS data become available. The data assimilation-crop modeling framework was evaluated against 2003–2009 maize yields in Story County, Iowa, USA, assimilating AMSR-E soil moisture and MODIS-LAI data independently and simultaneously. Assimilating LAI or soil moisture independently slightly improved the correlation of observed and simulated yields (R = 0.51 and 0.50) compared to no data assimilation (open-loop; R = 0.47) but prediction errors improved with reductions in MBE and RMSE by 0.5 and 0.5 Mg ha− 1 respectively for LAI assimilation while these were reduced by 1.8 and 1.1 Mg ha− 1 for soil moisture assimilation. Yield correlation improved more when both soil moisture and LAI were assimilated (R = 0.65) suggesting a cause–effect interaction between soil moisture and LAI, prediction errors (MBE and RMSE) were also reduced by 1.7 and 1.8 Mg ha− 1 with respect to open-loop simulations. Results suggest that assimilation of LAI independently might be preferable when conditions are extremely wet while assimilation of soil moisture + LAI might be more suitable when conditions are more nominal. AMSR-E soil moisture tends to be more biased under the presence of high vegetation (i.e., when crops are fully developed) and that updating rootzone soil moisture by near-surface soil moisture assimilation under very wet conditions could increase the modeled percolation causing excessive nitrogen (N) leaching hence reducing crop yields even with water stress reduced at a minimum due to soil moisture assimilation. However, applying the data assimilation-crop modeling framework strategically by considering a-priori information on climate condition expected during the growing season may improve yield prediction performance substantially, in our case with higher correlation (R = 0.80) and more reductions in MBE and RMSE (2.5 and 3.3 Mg ha− 1) compared to when there is no data assimilation. Scaling AMSR-E soil moisture to the climatology of the model did not improve our data assimilation results because the model is also biased. Better soil moisture products e.g., from Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, may solve the soil moisture data issue in the near future.

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More Information

Published In
Remote Sensing of Environment
Publisher DOI
149 - 164
Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
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