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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Concepts, approaches, and avenues for modelling crop health and crop losses

Savary, Serge; Nelson, Andrew D.; Djurle, Annika; Esker, Paul D.; Sparks, Adam; Amorim, Lilian; Bergamin Filho, Armando; Caffi, Tito; Castilla, Nancy; Garrett, Karen; McRoberts, Neil; Rossi, Vittorio; Yuen, Jonathan; Willocquet, Laetitia


This article addresses the modelling of crop health and its impact on crop losses, with a special emphasis on plant diseases. Plant disease epidemiological models have many different shapes. We propose a summary of modelling structures for plant disease epidemics, which stem from the concepts of infection rate, of site, of basic infection rate corrected for removals (R-c), and of basic reproductive number (R-0). Crop losses, the quantitative and qualitative impacts of diseases and pests on crop performances, can be expressed along many different dimensions. We focus on yield loss, defined as the difference between the attainable yield and the actual yield, in a production situation. The modelling of yield loss stems from the concept of damage mechanism, which can be applied to the wide range of organisms (including pathogens, weeds, arthropods, or nematodes) that may negatively affect crop growth and performances. Damage mechanisms are incorporated in crop growth models to simulate yield losses. In both fields, epidemiology and crop loss, we discuss the process of model development, including model simplification. We emphasize model simplification as a main avenue towards model genericity. This is especially relevant to enable addressing the diversity of crop pathogens and pests. We also discuss the usefulness of considering differing evaluation criteria depending on the stage of model development, and thus, depending on modelling objectives. We illustrate progress made on two global key crops where model simplification has been critical; rice and wheat. Modelling pests and diseases, and of the yield losses they cause on these two crops, lead us to propose the concept of crop health syndrome as a set of injury functions, each representing the dynamics of an injury (such as, for example, the time-course of an epidemic). Crop health in a given context can be represented by the set of such injury functions, which in turn can be used as drivers for crop loss models.


Crop health syndrome; Crop loss; Yield loss

Published in

European Journal of Agronomy
2018, Volume: 100, pages: 4-18