Simulating crop phenology in the Community Land Model and its impact on energy and carbon fluxes

Ming Chen, Tim J. Griffis, John Baker, Jeffrey D. Wood, Ke Xiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


A reasonable representation of crop phenology and biophysical processes in land surface models is necessary to accurately simulate energy, water, and carbon budgets at the field, regional, and global scales. However, the evaluation of crop models that can be coupled to Earth system models is relatively rare. Here we evaluated two such models (CLM4-Crop and CLM3.5-CornSoy), both implemented within the Community Land Model (CLM) framework, at two AmeriFlux corn-soybean sites to assess their ability to simulate phenology, energy, and carbon fluxes. Our results indicated that the accuracy of net ecosystem exchange and gross primary production simulations was intimately connected to the phenology simulations. The CLM4-Crop model consistently overestimated early growing season leaf area index, causing an overestimation of gross primary production, to such an extent that the model simulated a carbon sink instead of the measured carbon source for corn. The CLM3.5-CornSoy-simulated leaf area index (LAI), energy, and carbon fluxes showed stronger correlations with observations compared to CLM4-Crop. Net radiation was biased high in both models and was especially pronounced for soybeans. This was primarily caused by the positive LAI bias, which led to a positive net long-wave radiation bias. CLM4-Crop underestimated soil water content during midgrowing season in all soil layers at the two sites, which caused unrealistic water stress, especially for soybean. Future work regarding the mechanisms that drive early growing season phenology and soil water dynamics is needed to better represent crops including their net radiation balance, energy partitioning, and carbon cycle processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-325
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Community Land Model
  • crop modeling
  • crop phenology
  • net ecosystem CO2 exchange
  • soil water content


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