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Crop models are widely used to evaluate the response of crop growth to drought. However, over large geographic regions, the most advanced models are often restricted by available computing resource. This limits capacity to undertake uncertainty analysis and prohibits the use of models in real-time ensemble forecasting systems. This study addresses these concerns by presenting an integrated system for the dynamic prediction and assessment of agricultural yield using the top-ranked Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer platform. This system enables parallelization and acceleration for the existing AquaCrop, DNDC (DeNitrification and DeComposition) and SWAP (Soil Water Atmosphere Plant) models, thus facilitating multi-model ensemble and parameter optimization and subsequent drought risk analysis in multiple regions and at multiple scales. The high computing capability also opens up the possibility of real-time simulation during droughts, providing the basis for more effective drought management. Initial testing with varying core group numbers shows that computation time can be reduced by between 2.6 and 3.6 times. Based on the powerful computing capacity, a county-level model parameter optimization (2043 counties for 1996–2007) by Bayesian inference and multi-model ensemble using BMA (Bayesian Model Average) method were performed, demonstrating the enhancements in predictive accuracy that can be achieved. An application of this system is presented predicting the impacts of the drought of May–July 2017 on maize yield in North and Northeast China. The spatial variability in yield losses is presented demonstrating new capability to provide high resolution information with associated uncertainty estimates.

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Precipitation is an important source of soil water, which is critical to crop growth, and is therefore an important input when modelling crop growth. Although advances are continually being made in predicting and recording precipitation, input uncertainty of precipitation data is likely to influence the robustness of parameter estimate and thus the predictive accuracy in soil water and crop modelling. In this study, we use the Bayesian total error analysis (BATEA) method for the water-oriented crop model AquaCrop to identify the input uncertainty from multiple precipitation products respectively, including gauge-corrected grid dataset CPC, remote sensing based TRMM and reanalysis based ERA-Interim. This methodology uses latent variables to correct the input data errors. Adopting a single-multiplier method for precipitation correction, we simulate maize growth in both field and regional levels in China for a range of different possible climatic scenarios. Meanwhile, we use the average of multiple products for model driving in comparison. The results show that the BATEA method can consistently reduce uncertainty for crop growth prediction among different precipitation products. In regional simulation, the improvements for the three products are 1%, 7.3% and 2.8% on average in drought scenarios. These results imply the BATEA approach can be of great assistance for crop modeling studies and agricultural assessments under future changing climates.