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How will global crop production develop under climate change? Improving our predictive capability.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T Pugh
    Prof M Tausz
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Crop yields are highly sensitive to climate, with even relatively moderate climate change, such as that aimed for by the Paris agreement, placing future food security in doubt (Pugh et al., 2016). Crop models are a crucial tool to allow scientists to assess the likely impact of climate changes on food production, but their projections are also associated with a very high level of uncertainty (Rosenzweig et al., 2014). This PhD project will lever an unprecedented set of global-scale sensitivity simulations from 14 state-of-the-art crop models, in order to understand the reasons behind model differences and develop improved modelling approaches. The focus of the project may be on carbon dioxide fertilisation effects, known to be one of the largest drivers of uncertainties (Deryng et al., 2016), but can also be tailored to suite the particular interests of the student.

This PhD project will take place within the Biosphere-Atmosphere Exchange group at the University of Birmingham ( The student will learn highly transferrable skills in handling and analysing big data, and scientific code development, whilst working as part of a large international group of scientists within the Global Gridded Crop Model Intercomparison Project ( There is also the opportunity to work with and develop the state-of-the-art LPJ-GUESS regional/global-scale crop model (Olin et al., 2015). Some existing experience of computer coding (e.g. R, Python, Matlab) or big data analysis would be an advantage.

For further details please contact Dr Tom Pugh ([Email Address Removed]). Applications can be submitted at any time via the University of Birmingham website.

Funding Notes

Self fund students


Deryng, D., Elliott, J., Folberth, C., Müller, C., Pugh, T.A.M., Boote, K.J., Conway, D., Ruane, A.C., Gerten, D., Jones, J.W., Khabarov, N., Olin, S., Schapho, S., Schmid, E., Yang, H.: Regional disparities in the beneficial effects of rising CO2 concentrations on crop water productivity. Nat. Clim. Chang. 6, 786–790, 2016.

Olin, S., Lindeskog, M., Pugh, T. A. M., Schurgers, G., Wårlind, D., Mishurov, M., Zaehle, S., Stocker, B. D., Smith, B., Arneth, A.: Soil carbon management in large-scale Earth system modelling: implications for crop yields and nitrogen leaching, Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 745-768, 2015.

Pugh, T.A.M., Müller, C., Elliott, J., Deryng, D., Folberth, C., Olin, S., Schmid, E., Arneth, A.: Climate analogues suggest limited potential for intensification of production on current croplands under climate change. Nat. Commun. 7, 12608, 2016.

Rosenzwieg, C., Elliot, J., Deryng, D., Ruane, A. C., Mueller, C., Arneth, A., Boote, K. J., Folberth, C., Glotter, M., Khabarov, N., Neumann, K., Piontek, F., Pugh, T. A. M., Schmid, E., Stehfest, E., Yang, H., Jones, J. W.: Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model intercomparison. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111(9), 3268-3273, 2014.

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