Crop models, used to make projections of climate change impacts, differ greatly in structural detail. Complexity of model structure has generic effects on uncertainty and error propagation in climate change impact assessments. We applied Bayesian calibration to three distinctly different empirical and mechanistic wheat models to assess how differences in the extent of process understanding in models affects uncertainties in projected impact. Predictive power of the models was tested via both accuracy (bias) and precision (or tightness of grouping) of yield projections for extrapolated weather conditions. Yields predicted by the mechanistic model were generally more accurate than the empirical models for extrapolated conditions. This trend does not hold for all extrapolations; mechanistic and empirical models responded differently due to their sensitivities to distinct weather features. However, higher accuracy comes at the cost of precision of the mechanistic model to embrace all observations within given boundaries. The approaches showed complementarity in sensitivity to weather variables and in accuracy for different extrapolation domains. Their differences in model precision and accuracy make them suitable for generic model ensembles for near-term agricultural impact assessments of climate change.
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 2015, Vol 202, p. 51-60