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Dynamic Modelling of Cropping Systems

  • Photo: 
    Håkon Sparre, NMBU.

NOVA PhD course of 4 ECTS, organised by Marcos Lana and David Parsons, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Course dates and location: 4-8 Mar. 2019, in Umeå, Sweden.

Course Description
The course will introduce and familiarize PhD students with the operation of a crop model to support their research and allow a detailed understanding of the cropping system and the processes within it. Once the participants are familiar with the crop model, they shall adapt it to their own specific research questions.

The content focus on the operation of the crop model. Participants will learn the principles of modelling cropping systems, inputs, and basic simulations. Aspects such as model calibration, validation, and results interpretation will be discussed.

Programme Outline

  • Day 1 Cropping systems theory, why use crop models
    • Course outline. General introduction. Framework of crop models. How a model works.
  • Day 2 Modelling complexity
    • Modelling different systems (single crops, rotations, forages)
  • Day 3 Climate change and calibration
    • Climate change and plant responses to temperature, radiation, rainfall, CO2.
    • Open source datasets (CCAFS, AgMIP).
    • Collection of field data and calibration techniques.
  • Day 4 Assessing the performance of crop models.
    • Concepts of model evaluation.
    • Group work with datasets. Presentation of results.
  • Day 5 Cropping systems model as a research tool
    • Designing a post-campus individual research project.
    • Planning and discussing with feedback from students and tutors.

Pre-/Post-Campus Assignments
The pre-campus activity is to install APSIM and work through the training manual.
Since one of the objectives is to allow participants to simulate their own cropping systems, after the on-site course they return to their home institutions and use the model with own data. This process will be monitored by the course teachers using email and one-to-one skype meetings. At the end, students present a written report.

Learning Outcomes
Course participants are expected to be able to run APSIM using their own data and for specific purposes that will contribute to their PhD project/Thesis. In terms of knowledge, participants are expected to acquire the most advanced theory and latest concepts related to crop modelling and how they can be used to support agricultural decision systems. Regarding skills, after completing the course participants are expected to be able to perform specific modelling tasks connected to problem-solving and decision-making processes. Finally, in terms of competences, participants will have intellectual capabilities to tackle real-life problems related to crop production, agronomic management and environmental questions, developing new knowledge and being able to communicate it.

Evaluation Elements
The student will be entitled to receive the ECTS (pass) if the following tasks are completed:

  • assessment of crop model performance exercise;
  • presentation of model results using own data;
  • final course report.

Pedagogical Approach
The course is designed to promote an active learning, engaging the students with the course material, to participate in class and cooperate with each other. Teaching modelling requires the lecturer to model a process and make the thinking behind it explicit in order to allow understanding. Real world situations brought by participants will steer the process. Students will be responsible for approaching their own topics. In combination with lectures, exercises for co-operative learning will be done, followed by a daily assessment and evaluation session by the students.

Estimated Workload

  • 2 hours seminar
  • 20 hours lecture
  • 72 hours independent work
  • 6 hours independent online tutoring (using Skype)

Prerequisite Knowledge
Knowledge of agricultural sciences, including soil, climate and crops. The book “Working with Dynamic Crop Models” is the textbook of the course (available on-line).

Admission for NOVA courses is handled by the course organiser/ the NOVA member institution organising the course. Please see the links in the margin for more information.

Apply here



There are no course fees for any students. Other participants as teachers/researchers and participants from the industry can be charged a course fee.

Catering costs during the course (including coffee, tea, snacks and lunch during all course days + one event dinner) are € 110.00 and apply to all participants.

Travel and accommodation costs are not covered by NOVA for any participant, therefore participants are encouraged to secure their hotel reservation and travel arrangements as soon as possible.


SLU's webpage for the course including information on travel to Umeå

Published 29. June 2018 - 15:09 - Updated 31. January 2019 - 12:28