Agro-Ecological Systems

The Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program’s Agro-Ecological Systems (AES) research group advanced global and regional crop modeling in 2014, implementing and calibrating additional crops in the global EPIC model and also studying the phosphorus cycle.

© Alistaircotton | Dreamstime

© Alistaircotton | Dreamstime

At the global level additional crops were implemented and calibrated in the global EPIC (GEPIC) model [1], which currently supports 17 major world crops. AES collaborated with international modeling groups under the AgGRID initiative (The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project), which aims to improve global gridded crop modeling [2]. The evaluation of EPIC-based models within AgGRID is being led by members of AES.

Regional crop modeling featured forcing of the EPIC model with a new ensemble of EURO-CORDEX climate projections to allow estimation of the impacts of future climate on crop production, regional adaptations, crop vulnerability, and production risks in Europe under the IMPACT2C project (Figure 1).

Figure 1. (a) Vulnerability of rain-fed maize yields to drought and (b) risk of maize yield losses due to drought simulated by EPIC for period of +2°C global warming (as per Representative Concentration Pathway [RCP ] 4.5 (click on image to enlarge).

There was an analysis of intensification pathways of agricultural systems [3] [4], and crop production potential in developing countries as part of the AGRICISTRADE project, of which ESM’s Petr Havlik is managing Work Package 3 on “Untapped potentials of agricultural production.”

Within the Agribenchmark project, a highly detailed analysis of crop production and costs of agricultural amendments (i.e., water, fertilizers, seeds, lime, and crop protection) in Brazil was carried out.

Phosphorus in agricultural systems was also studied, with the new soil data being implemented and advanced calibration of bio-chemical processes in EPIC taking place. These allowed AES to address global aspects of the phosphorus cycle within the IMBALANCE-P  project, which is funded by a European Research Council Synergy Grant. GEPIC was used to examine crop yield deficits resulting from increasingly unbalanced Nitrogen:Phosphorus applications in Africa [5].


[1] Balkovič J, van der Velde M, Skalský R, Xiong W, Folberth Ch, Khabarov N, Smirnov A, Mueller ND, Obersteiner M (2014). Global wheat production potentials and management flexibility under the representative concentration pathways. Global and Planetary Change 122:107-121.

[2] Rosenzweig C, Elliott J, Deryng D, Ruane AC, Mueller Ch, Arneth A, Boote KJ, Folberth Ch, Khabarov N, Neumannk K, Piontek F, Pugh TAM, Schmid E, Stehfest E, Yang H, Jones JW (2014). Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model inter-comparison. PNAS 111(9):3268-3273.

[3] Folberth Ch, Yang H, Gaiser T, Liu J, Wang X, Williams J, Schulin R (2014). Effects of ecological and conventional agricultural intensification practices on maize yields in sub-Saharan Africa under potential climate change. Environmental Research Letters 9(4):044004.

[4] Xiong W, van der Velde M, Holman IP, Balkovič J, Lin E, Skalský R, Porter C, Jones J, Khabarov N, Obersteiner M (2014). Can climate-smart agriculture reverse the recent slowing of rice yield growth in China? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 196:125–136.

[5] van der Velde M, Folberth Ch, Balkovič J, Ciais P, Fritz S, Janssens IA, Obersteiner M, See L, Skalský R, Xiong W, Penuelas J (2014). African crop yield reductions due to increasingly unbalanced Nitrogen and Phosphorus consumption. Global Change Biology 20(4):1278-1288.


European Commission DG Joint Research Centre (JRC), Italy

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USA

University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) Computation Institute, USA

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Climate Impacts Group, USA

Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG), Germany

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research (PIK), Germany

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Last edited: 07 May 2015


Juraj Balkovic

Research Scholar Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

Further information



Quantifying Projected Impacts Under 2°C Warming (IMPACT2C)

European Research Council

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