Extrapolating simulations of bioenergy crop agro-ecosystems beyond data-rich sites requires biophysically accurate ecosystem models and careful estimation of model parameters not available in the literature. To increase biophysical accuracy we added C4 perennial grass functionality and agricultural practices to the Biome-BGC (BioGeochemical Cycles) ecosystem model. This new model, Agro-BGC, includes enzyme-driven C4 photosynthesis, individual live and dead leaf, stem, and root carbon and nitrogen pools, separate senescence and litter fall processes, fruit growth, optional annual seeding, flood irrigation, a growing degree day phenology with a killing frost option, and a disturbance handler that simulates nitrogen fertilization, harvest, fire, and incremental irrigation. To obtain spatially generalizable vegetation parameters we used a numerical method to optimize five unavailable parameters for Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) using biomass yield data from three sites: Mead, Nebraska, Rockspring, Pennsylvania, and Mandan, North Dakota. We then verified simulated switchgrass yields at three independent sites in Illinois (IL). Agro-BGC is more accurate than Biome-BGC in representing the physiology and dynamics of C4 grass and management practices associated with agro-ecosystems. The simulated two-year average mature yields with single-site Rockspring optimization have Root Mean Square Errors (RMSE) of 70, 152, and 162 and biases of 43, -87, 156gcarbonm-2 for Shabbona, Urbana, and Simpson IL, respectively. The simulated annual yields in June, August, October, December, and February have RMSEs of 114, 390, and 185 and biases of -19, -258, and 147gcarbonm-2 for Shabbona, Urbana, and Simpson IL, respectively. These RMSE and bias values are all within the largest 90% confidence interval around respective IL site measurements. Twenty-four of twenty-six simulated annual yields with Rockspring optimization are within 95% confidence intervals of Illinois site measurements during the mature fourth and fifth years of growth. Ten of eleven simulated two-year average mature yields with Rockspring optimization are within 65% confidence intervals of Illinois site measurements and the eleventh is within the 95% confidence interval. Rockspring optimized Agro-BGC achieves accuracies comparable to those of two previously published models: Agricultural Land Management Alternatives with Numerical Assessment Criteria (ALMANAC) and Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM). Agro-BGC suffers from static vegetation parameters that can change seasonally and as plants age. Using mature plant data for optimization mitigates this deficiency. Our results suggest that a multi-site optimization scheme using mature plant data from more sites would be adequate for generating spatially generalizable vegetation parameters for simulating mature bioenergy crop agro-ecosystems with Agro-BGC.
- Ecosystem model