The assimilation of LAI measurements, repeatedly taken at sub-field level, into dynamic crop simulation models could provide valuable information for precision farming applications. Commonly used updating methods such as the Ensemble Kalman Filter (EnKF) rely on an ensemble of model runs to update a limited set of state variables every time a new observation becomes available. This threatens the model’s integrity, as not the entire table of model states is updated. In this study, we present the Weighted Mean (WM) approach that relies on a model ensemble that runs from simulation start to simulation end without compromising the consistency and integrity of the state variables. We measured LAI on 14 winter wheat fields across France, Germany and the Netherlands and assimilated these observations into the LINTUL5 crop model using the EnKF and WM approaches, where the ensembles were created using one set of crop component (CC) ensemble generation variables and one set of soil and crop component (SCC) ensemble generation variables. The model predictions for total aboveground biomass and grain yield at harvest were evaluated against measurements collected in the fields. Our findings showed that (a) the performance of the WM approach was very similar to the EnKF approach when SCC variables were used for the ensemble generation, but outperformed the EnKF approach when only CC variables were considered, (b) the difference in site-specific performance largely depended on the choice of the set of ensemble generation variables, with SCC outperforming CC with regard to both biomass and grain yield, and (c) both EnKF and WM improved accuracy of biomass and yield estimates over standard model runs or the ensemble mean. We conclude that the WM data assimilation approach is equally efficient to the improvement of model accuracy, compared to the updating methods, but it has the advantage that it does not compromise the integrity and consistency of the state variables.
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