MINK: Process-based crop modeling for global food security

By Richard Robertson, IFPRI —

Over the last decade, computer models of crop growth have increasingly been used to understand how climate change may affect the world's capacity to produce food. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has undertaken a major sustained effort to analyze changes in the productivity of major crops across the entire world. The results are integrated into economic modeling efforts ranging from household to country-level economy-wide models to the global agricultural sector partial-equilibrium economic model known as IMPACT. With the models working together, researchers can examine how biophysical changes in crop growth interact with changes in social and economic conditions.

Now, for the first time, IFPRI is releasing a comprehensive volume describing the global-scale crop modeling system behind IMPACT known as “Mink” for short. Download here.

Mink generates yield maps for the entire world that can be compared to identify locations most likely to be affected by climate change.

Crop modeling starts at the field level and scaling this up to the global level is challenging. Climate data must be collated, processed, and formatted. Representative crop varieties and planting calendars have to be chosen. Fertilizer input levels need to be specified. Myriad other assumptions need to be considered and appropriate values and strategies determined. And that is just the preparation phase. All the data then have to be organized, exported, and run through the crop models to obtain simulated yields under different climate scenarios and production environments. This necessitates employing parallel computing to get the job done quickly enough to be useful. And then the reams of output data must be organized, manipulated, analyzed, and finally interpreted to provide context as well as specific information so policymakers can plan appropriately for the future.

Collaborators from across the CGIAR and universities in India gather at ICRISAT to learn how to use Mink in support of their own research.

Naturally, with so much going on, the process can be mysterious for those looking in from the outside and potentially confusing even for those on the inside.

The document addresses how Mink works at several different levels. There is the broad discussion of interest to policymakers and managers concerning how global-scale crop modeling can be used, its strengths and weaknesses, how to think about the issues, and where it sits in the wider context of agricultural and policy research. At a middle level, every step of the process is described for those who wish to understand how it works so they can use the results properly, but not necessarily generate the numbers themselves. Along the way, though, various tips, tricks, and lessons learned are revealed for those who do, in fact, wish to replicate this kind of work on their own. And finally, for collaborators and researchers who wish to use Mink themselves, there is the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts level documentation and tutorial aspects that literally say "Change this number; click here and drag there."

Mink has been used to provide insight for numerous reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, and the popular press, some examples being:

National Geographic. Climate Change: 5 Ways It Will Affect You: Crops. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/climate-change/how-to-live-with-it/crops.html

Rosegrant et al. 2017. Quantitative foresight modeling to inform the CGIAR research portfolio. http://ebrary.ifpri.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15738coll2/id/131144

Islam et al. 2016. Structural approaches to modeling the impact of climate change and adaptation technologies on crop yields and food security. Global Food Security 10: 63-70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2016.08.003

Wiebe et al. 2015. Climate change impacts on agriculture in 2050 under a range of plausible socioeconomic and emissions scenarios. Environmental Research Letters 10: 085010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/085010

Müller and Robertson. 2014. Projecting future crop productivity for global economic modeling. Agricultural Economics 45: 37-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/agec.12088

Rosegrant et al. 2014. Food security in a world of natural resource scarcity: The role of agricultural technologies. http://dx.doi.org/10.2499/9780896298477

We hope this volume will be a valuable resource for global modelers running simulations, their collaborators making use of the results, and ultimately for policymakers trying to determine appropriate courses of action in a changing world.

Major and ongoing support for this work has been provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) through the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight Project.

Global Futures & Strategic Foresight Extended Team Meeting at IRRI, 15-19 May 2017

By Keith Wiebe — 

IRRI recently hosted the Global Futures & Strategic Foresight (GFSF) Extended Team Meeting and Writeshop from May 15-19, 2017. GFSF is a CGIAR initiative to explore long-term trends, challenges, and policy options for food and agriculture through multidisciplinary foresight analysis. GFSF is led by IFPRI in collaboration with AfricaRice, Bioversity, CIAT, CIFOR, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, ICRAF, ICRISAT, IITA, ILRI, IRRI, IWMI, and WorldFish. The meeting was led by Keith Wiebe (IFPRI) and Steve Prager (CIAT), with participants from across the CGIAR.

The week-long meeting and writeshop focused on the preparation of a series of papers for an upcoming special issue of the journal Global Food Security. The papers draw on recent analysis of alternative agricultural research and investment scenarios, and will focus on a range of commodities, regions, and cross-cutting topics. It is hoped that the results will help inform decision making in the CGIAR and its partners. GFSF is funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other donors.


Exploring impacts of climate and socioeconomic change in West Africa

By Daniel Mason-D'Croz and Shahnila Islam, IFPRI

Climate change will likely have a negative effect on the agriculture sector in West Africa due to changing precipitation patterns and increasing temperatures. These changes can have negative impacts on food security in the region and, ultimately, the consequences of these changes will depend in part on society’s capacity to adapt to an uncertain future. A new article in the peer-reviewed journal Global Environmental Change, “Linking regional stakeholder scenarios and shared socioeconomic pathways: Quantified West African food and climate futures in a global context”, explores this uncertainty through four regional socioeconomic scenarios developed in a series of regional stakeholder driven workshops.


Fig. Cartoon representation of West African Scenarios by André Daniel Tapsoba (Palazzo et al. 2016)

This study suggests that investments in agriculture, particularly in productivity enhancing technologies and practices, could not only improve access to food but also ease pressures on agricultural land expansion throughout the region.

This study is part of the Regional Scenarios Project, a large collaborative effort led by the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) that has developed regional scenarios in 6 macro regions around the world and has involved significant collaboration among colleagues in the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute (ECI).

IFPRI’s participation in this project is also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read the press release at IIASA.

The journal article can be accessed here.

Related links:

IIASA Blog post by Amanda Palazzo describing the scenario process in West Africa.

GFSF Blog post by Daniel Mason-D’Croz summarizing outputs from the Regional Scenario Project.

CCAFS Regional Scenario Page.

Do markets and trade help or hurt the global food system adapt to climate change?

By Keith Wiebe, IFPRI

food-policy-coverRapidly expanding global trade in the past three decades has lifted millions of people out of poverty. But trade has also reduced manufacturing wages in high income countries and made entire industries uncompetitive in some communities, giving rise to nationalist politics that seek to stop or reverse further trade expansion in the United States and Europe. Given complex and uncertain political support for trade, how might changes in trade policy affect the global food system’s ability to adapt to climate change?

The authors for the new Food Policy paper "Do markets and trade help or hurt the global food system adapt to climate change?" argue that the best way to understand food security in a changing climate is by looking at it as a double exposure: the exposure of people and processes to both economic and climate-related shocks and stressors. Trade can help us adapt to climate change, or not. If trade restrictions proliferate, double exposure to both a rapidly changing climate and volatile markets will likely jeopardize the food security of millions. A changing climate will present both opportunities and challenges for the global food system, and adapting to its many impacts will affect food availability, food access, food utilization and food security stability for the poorest people across the world. Global trade can continue to play a central role in assuring that global food system adapts to a changing climate. This potential will only be realized, however, if trade is managed in ways that maximize the benefits of broadened access to new markets while minimizing the risks of increased exposure to international competition and market volatility. For regions like Africa, for example, enhanced transportation networks combined with greater national reserves of cash and enhanced social safety nets could reduce the impact of ‘double exposure’ on food security.




The paper can be accessed online and downloaded in pdf from this page.

This article was originally posted on PIM Webpage.


Improved modeling of rice under environmental stresses

By Tao Li & Samarendu Mohanty, IRRI


Photo Credit: IRRI

The worldwide usage of and increasing citations for ORYZA2000 has established it as a robust and reliable ecophysiological model for predicting the growth and yield of rice in an irrigated lowland ecosystem. Because of its focus on irrigated lowlands, its computation ability is limited in the representation of the effects of the highly dynamic environments of upland, rainfed, and aerobic ecosystems on rice growth and yield. Additional modules and routines to quantify daily variations in soil temperature, carbon, nitrogen, and environmental stresses were then developed and integrated into ORYZA2000 to capture their effects on primary production, assimilate allocation, root growth, and water and nitrogen uptake.

The newest version has been renamed “ORYZA version 3 (v3)”. Case studies have shown that the root mean square errors (RMSE) between simulated and measured values for total biomass and yields ranged from 11.2% to 16.6% across experiments in non-drought and drought and/or nitrogen-deficient environments. ORYZA (v3) showed a significant reduction of the RMSE by at least 20%, thereby improving the model’s capability to represent values measured under extreme conditions. It has also been significantly improved in representing the dynamics of soil water and crop leaf nitrogen contents. With an enhanced capability to simulate rice growth and development and predict yield in non-stressed, water-stressed and nitrogen-stressed environments, ORYZA (v3) is a reliable successor of ORYZA2000.

Download the paper here

Crop and bio-economic modeling for an uncertain climate

By Gideon Kruseman (CIMMYT)

The potential impact of climate change on agriculture and the complexity of possible adaptation responses require the application of new research methods and tools to develop adequate strategies. At a recent five-day training workshop titled “Crop and Bio-economic Modeling under Uncertain Climate,” scientists applied crop and bio-economic models to estimate biophysical and economic impacts of climate variability and change.

Workshop participants. Photo credit: CIMMYT.

Workshop participants. Photo credit: CIMMYT.

Crop system modeling is used to simulate yields for specific weather patterns, nutrient input levels and bio-economic household modeling involves using quantitative economic methodology to incorporate biological, chemical and/or physical processes to analyze the impact of technology development, policy interventions and such exogenous shocks as extreme weather events on the decision-making processes of smallholder farmers and related development indicators. Events influence results in two ways: the probability of occurrence will shape decision-making and actual occurrence will shape realized results.

Read more on the CIMMYT blog.

To Latin America for Global Connections

By Daniel Mason-D’Croz (IFPRI)

Argentinian Counterparts
In early December, Daniel Mason-D’Croz presented at the second annual International Conference on Agro-Industrial Projections hosted by INAI (www.inai.org.ar, www.inai.org.ar/notas.asp?id=193) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is the second year that Daniel has presented at the conference and is a part of building collaboration with the economic modeling team at INAI. In 2014, Daniel presented a selection of results from studies considering the effects of adopting new crop technologies (Rosegrant et al 2014, and Robinson et al 2015). In this second conference, Daniel presented a selection of preliminary results from the upcoming IMPACT baseline scenarios and highlighted the new features available in IMPACT 3 (www.ifpri.org/program/impact-model) along with recent improvements and updates to the climate scenarios that now include results across all representative concentration pathways (RCPs) from the IPCC’s 5th assessment report.

Global Colleagues
In addition to the day of presentations discussing agricultural projections, a follow-up modeling meeting was held where representatives from a variety of modeling teams, including OECD-FAO, IFPRI, INAI, and others, discussed the modeling philosophies and ongoing work being done by the different teams. Daniel presented work being done in collaboration with ILRI through the GFSF project to improve the IMPACT livestock module as well as work connecting IMPACT to country land-use models as was done in Colombia (blog post, report).

Climate Change in Context
Changing climate is not just affecting agriculture through the direct effects of changing temperatures and precipitation. The ½ degree increase we have already observed is leading to changes in the distribution of plant pests and diseases as new areas have become hospitable to new plagues. These transitions are likely to increase as temperatures increase even more, and they won’t just be limited to plant pests and diseases. Increasing temperatures will likely lead to spreading of tropical diseases (i.e. dengue, malaria, etc.) to higher latitudes in both the northern and southern temperate zones. These changes, among many others, could have many unexpected impacts that would greatly alter the way our global economy and society function. As a part of the International Grains Forum (www.igc.int/en/about/aboutus-pressrelease.aspx, www.igcargentina.com/eng/index.html), Daniel presented a few of these many challenges that face our global food system to help provide context of the nearer term challenges that climate change presents in addition to the longer term challenges that we so often focus on as a part of the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project.

Please see the slides presented here:


This work was supported by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) to Global Futures and Strategic Foresight Program (GFSF).

IFPRI and partners share insights on climate change and food security in Paris

By Keith Wiebe (IFPRI)

circus_sidebanner_home_pastIFPRI researchers Mark Rosegrant, Keith Wiebe and Alex de Pinto led a session (“Up and down the scales of time and place: Integrating global trends and local decisions to make the world more food-secure by 2050”) on December 5 at the Global Landscapes Forum on the margins of COP21 in Paris. The session explored climate change impacts and solutions at global, regional and country scales, drawing on new research to analyze policy options that promote healthy growth of the agricultural sector and food security in a changing climate. Participants Mercedita Sombilla (Director ANRES, National Economic and Development Authority, Office of the President, Philippines), Kirit N Shelat (Executive Chairman, Indian National Council for Climate Change Sustainable Development and Public Leadership), and Rodrigo Suarez Castaño (Climate Change Director, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia) also shared insights and experiences from the national level. >> Read more

Exploring Indonesian aquaculture futures: new report from WorldFish

By Nhuong Tran (WorldFish), Evgeniya Anisimova (PIM)

AquaculWorldFish-report-aquaculture-futures-271x300ture is the fastest-growing food production sector globally, with production projected to double within the next 15–20 years. Future growth of aquaculture is essential to providing sustainable supplies of fish in national, regional and global fish food systems; creating jobs; and maintaining fish at affordable levels for resource-poor consumers. To ensure that the anticipated growth of aquaculture remains both economically and ecologically sustainable, we need to better understand the likely patterns of growth, as well as the opportunities and challenges that these trends present. This knowledge will enable us to better prioritize investments that will help ensure the sustainable development of the sector.

In Indonesia, WorldFish and partners have applied a unique methodology to evaluate growth trajectories for aquaculture under various scenarios, as well as the opportunities and challenges these represent. The analysis indicates that aquaculture will overtake capture fisheries as the major source of fish in Indonesia before 2030 and that investment in aquaculture will be essential in order to increase domestic fish supplies and consumption, maintain affordable fish prices for domestic consumers, and sustain the contribution fish makes to Indonesian food and nutritional security.

See more finding on the CGIAR Policies, Institutions and Markets blog here, and read the full report here.


WorldFish-report-Envisioning-possible-futures-for-fish-production-in-Indonesia-cover-287x300Envisioning possible futures for fish production in Indonesia

In addition, a related report released by WorldFish summarizes the results of a systematic effort to explore possible futures for aquaculture and fisheries in Indonesia. The work described is part of a larger effort that seeks to develop a shared vision for the sectors that 1) aligns public and private investments to foster growth and economic sustainability; 2) reduces environmental impacts and improves efficiency; 3) increases access by small and medium enterprises to the financial and technical assistance necessary to transition to more sustainable practices.

See a summary of the report on the CGIAR Policies, Institutions and Markets blog here, and read the full report here.


IFPRI’s IMPACT model update: a core component of GFSF’s quantitative foresight modeling.

By Daniel Mason-D'Croz (IFPRI)

Models can be powerful tools that help us systematically apply data and theory to test our understanding of complex and interconnected systems. A major focus for the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project is to use IFPRI’s IMPACT model for quantitative foresight modeling to analyze how agricultural and food systems might evolve under alternative futures across multiple dimensions (i.e. population, climate, economic development, among many others). As new data and knowledge become available, quantitative models need to be reviewed and updated to reflect the improved understanding.


Figure 1- IFPRI’s IMPACT Model

Figure 1- IFPRI’s IMPACT Model

Continual updating is an integral part of the IMPACT model’s history. With improved data and computational power, the IMPACT team works to enhance the model’s relevance for policymakers in exploring critical issues around long-term agriculture development and food security. The latest model improvements are just the next chapter in the model’s history, building on the work of previous efforts to simulate the food system in ever greater detail by expanding the number of commodities and individual countries covered by IMPACT.

In this latest update, the IMPACT model was designed to incorporate not only better agricultural data but also best practices in model structure and coding.  This enables the model to expand to cover new areas of research interest while at the same time ensuring cleaner and modular code. Improvements in model design and structure are explained in detail in the new documentation. Additionally, we go into more detail on the IMPACT modeling philosophy, including discussions on scenario analysis and the role of simulation models in ex-ante analysis.

To read the new IMPACT documentation please go to http://www.ifpri.org/publication/international-model-policy-analysis-agricultural-commodities-and-trade-impact-model-0.