Improved descriptions of soil hydrology in crop models: The elephant in the room?

Nicholas Jarvis, Mats Larsbo, Elisabet Lewan, Sarah Garré

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Soil-crop simulation models are widely used to assess the impacts of soil management and climate change on soil water balance, solute transport and crop production. In this context, it is important that hydrological processes in the soil-crop system are accurately modelled. We suggest here that empirical treatments of soil water flow, water uptake by plant roots and transpiration limit the applicability of crop models and increase prediction errors. We further argue that this empiricism is to a large extent unnecessary, as parsimonious physics-based descriptions of these water flow processes in the soil-crop system are now available. Recent reviews and opinion articles, whilst strongly advocating the need for improvements to crop models, fail to mention the significant role played by accurate treatments of soil hydrology. It seems to us that empirical models of soil water flow have become the elephant in the room.
Translated title of the contributionVerbeterde voorstellingen van bodemhydrologie in gewasmodellen
Original languageEnglish
Article number103477
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2022


  • Crop model
  • Model parsimony
  • Parameter uncertainty
  • Root water uptake
  • Soil water flow


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