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Modeling climate effects on crops and cropping systems (2015)

Name of course: Modeling climate effects on crops and cropping systems

ECTS credits: 5 ECTS

Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Semester/quarter:  Q3 2015

Hours per week: Total workload  app. 130 hours (including including preparatory reading before and during the course, lectures and exercises during the course and report writing after the course)

Capacity limits: 22 participants

Objectives of the course:

Modeling the effects of climate change on crop photosynthesis, growth and development is vital for evaluating the future yields of crops, the risk of weeds and diseases in different cropping systems, and the future environmental threats.

This course aims at giving the Ph.D. student a thorough background in the development, evaluation and use of models of crops and cropping systems in the context of climate change. The course will include a combination of lectures, hands-on model development, and hands-on evaluation and use of existing models. Lectures and exercises will cover all steps in the modeling process: qualitative and quantitative model formulation, parameter estimation, and model validation and analysis. Parts of the modeling process will be exemplified using a simple simulation tool (PowerSim) and parts by using the simulation model DAISY. The practical and theoretical exercises will be conducted in groups. Each practical exercise will result in a short exercise report from each student. These reports will make up the student personal course portfolio.

Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course the student should be able to:

  • Explain how climate change affects crops and cropping systems
  • Explain the relations between a model, empirical knowledge and the real system.
  • Explain the main classification of models (static/dynamic, empirical/mechanistic, deterministic/stochastic) and other central definitions
  • Extract an abstract model from a real system and to describe this model in text and graphs
  • Reflect on choice of model type for simulation of crop growth, development and water balance and on the level of detail
  • Evaluate the sensitivity of a model to uncertainty associated with parameters and input in crop models
  • Reflect on the ability of the resulting model to describe a real cropping system and  to predict future behavior of the cropping system by scenario analysis
  • Reflect on the use of existing models for prediction of effects on climate change
  • Explain the process in a weather generator
  • Use a weather generator to generate climate and apply it in scenario analysis


Compulsory programme:

Report and exercises

Course contents:

Modeling the effects of climate change on crop photosynthesis, growth and development is vital for evaluating the future yields of crops, the risk of weeds and diseases in different cropping systems, and the future environmental threats.


PhD students within agronomy, environmental  engineering or  biology

Name of lecturer[s]:

Mikhail Semenov, Centre for Mathematical and Computational Biology, Rothamsted Research

Henrik Eckersten, Department of Crop Production Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Jørgen E. Olesen, Mathias Neumann Andersen, Christen Duus Børgesen and Finn Plauborg, Dept. of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University

Type of course/teaching methods:

Lectures and exercises


Haefner, J.W. Modeling Biological Systems 1-213 (covers general modelling issues such as system analysis, model formulation, numerical methods, parameter estimation, model validation and model analysis)

Olesen, J.E., and M. Bindi, 2002. Consequences of climate change for European agricultural productivity, land use and policy. European Journal of Agronomy 16:239–262.

Hay, R.K.M, Porter, J.R, 2006. The physiology of crop yield. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. ISBN-13: 978-14051-0859-1. Chapter2 Page 7-15 (Development and phenology) Chapter 9 Page 220-230.

Jones, H.G. 1992. Plants and Microclimate - A Quantitative Approach to Environmental Plant Physiology. 2nd Edition. Chapter. 5, 6, 7 og 10.

Hansen, S. Daisy, a flexible Soil-Plant-Atmosphere system Model. The Royal Veterinary- and Agricultural University, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Laboratory for Agrohydrology and Bioclimatology

Porter J.R. and M.A. Semenov, 2005. Crop responses to climatic variation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 360:2021–2035.

Semenov, M.A. and P. Stratonovitch. 2010. Use of multi-model ensembles from global climate models for assessment of climate change impacts

Semenov, M.A. 2007. Development of high-resolution UKCIP02-based climate change scenarios in the UK. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 144:127–138.

Course homepage:

Course assessment:



Department of Agroecology

Special comments on this course:



24 – 30 August 2015

Place: AU-Foulum, Blichers Allé 20, DK-8830 Tjele


For registration:

If you have any questions, please contact course organiser Christen Duus Børgesen, e-mail: or course secretary Jytte Christensen, e-mail:

Comments on content: 
Revised 16.05.2017