Machine learning methods for crop yield prediction and climate change impact assessment in agriculture

We describe an approach to yield modeling that uses a semiparametric variant of a deep neural network, which can simultaneously account for complex nonlinear relationships in high-dimensional datasets, as well as known parametric structure and unobserved cross-sectional heterogeneity.

Author: Andrew Crane-Droesch
 
Journal: Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 11
 
Publisher: IOP Publishing Ltd
 
Abstract
 
Crop yields are critically dependent on weather. A growing empirical literature models this relationship in order to project climate change impacts on the sector. We describe an approach to yield modeling that uses a semiparametric variant of a deep neural network, which can simultaneously account for complex nonlinear relationships in high-dimensional datasets, as well as known parametric structure and unobserved cross-sectional heterogeneity. Using data on corn yield from the US Midwest, we show that this approach outperforms both classical statistical methods and fully-nonparametric neural networks in predicting yields of years withheld during model training. Using scenarios from a suite of climate models, we show large negative impacts of climate change on corn yield, but less severe than impacts projected using classical statistical methods. In particular, our approach is less pessimistic in the warmest regions and the warmest scenarios.
 
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Illustration Photo: Corn field at at J. Phil Campbell Center (credits: UGA CAES/Extension / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

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