Comparison of two pasture growth models of differing complexity

R. Howard Skinner, Michael S. Corson, C. Alan Rotz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Two pasture growth models that shared many common features but differed in model complexity were refined for incorporation into the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM), a whole-farm model that predicts effects of weather and management on hydrology, soil nutrient dynamics, forage and crop yields, milk or beef production, and farm economics. Major differences between models included the explicit representation of roots in the more complex model and their effects on carbon partitioning and growth. The simple model only simulated aboveground processes. The overall goal was to develop a model capable of representing forage growth and ecosystem carbon fluxes among multiple plant species in pastures while maintaining a relatively simple model structure that minimized the number of required user inputs. Models were compared to observed yield data for 12 site-years from three experiments in central Pennsylvania, USA. Both models underestimated observed yield by 6% when averaged across site-years. However, the simple model provided a better fit to the one-to-one line between observed and simulated yield than did the complex model. The models also showed similar relationships between yield and gross primary productivity (GPP), despite the fact that the complex model was specifically developed to optimize simulation of GPP. The simple model predicted much greater shoot respiration and carbon partitioning to above ground plant tissues, but less shoot senescence than the complex model. Published data on the proportion of GPP consumed in aboveground or total plant respiration exhibit a wide range of values, making it impossible to determine which model provided the best representation of respiration rates and, thus, of the entire carbon budget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-43
Number of pages9
JournalAgricultural Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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