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FARMSCAPE - Farmer-adviser-researcher monitoring, simulation, and communication for best dryland cropping practice

Dr R L McCown; R.L. ph: (07) 4688 1200; fax: (07) 4688 1193;

Research organisation: CSIRO Tropical Agriculture/APSRU, PO Box 102, Toowoomba Qld 4350.

Sponsor: GRDC, Grains Research and Development Corporation


1.      To further develop a promising R, D & E approach in which farmers, advisers, and researchers work together to identify best crop and soil management practice by combining (a) experience of farmer and advisers, (b) on-farm experimentation and monitoring, and (c) computer simulation of alternative management options.

2.      To find cost-effective ways for farmers, advisers, and researchers who are not directly engaged in the interactions of Aim 1 to benefit from outputs of Aim 1.

3.      To evaluate the impact of the co-learning and communication in Aims 1 and Aim 2 on participants in terms of changed attitudes and actions which lead towards best practice.


One strategy is to service suppliers to develop their capabilities for delivery of support for soil and crop monitoring and the integration of system simulation to explore management options for specific circumstances. A second strategy is to establish effective use of mass media, especially video and fax, as a means of extending information networks built around small action-learning groups of farmers, advisers, and researchers. The costs and benefits of the various co-learning and communication modes being implemented are evaluated in order to assist future decision making regarding the mix of these for different circumstances.

Progress: This will be achieved by further development of a novel approach which relies on improved monitoring of soil water and nitrogen, simulation of management options, and effective communication of new insights. Large scale, long-term experiments are progressively less feasible. At the same time the capability of models to simulate the outcomes of alternative management options for specific sites has reached a stage where utility is demonstrable. This project will further improve APSIM for use in exploring management options and in operational systems which anchor this in the "realism" of data from industry-run soil and crop monitoring systems.

  • Improved means of delivering assistance in comparing management options and in communicating results of relevant analyses to the farming community. To date the success of this approach has been accompanied by intensive involvement of research specialists in both field monitoring and simulation. An important outcome will be demonstration of more cost-effective modes of implementation of this RD&E approach, as a step to institutionalisation in both private and public sectors. One important mode of contribution will be assistance to advisers and consultants in deriving advice for clients concerning specific actions, ie., a versatile form of decision support. A second mode is in assisting farmers and advisers in tactical planning, ie., testing and refining their rules of thumb through examining past actions and associated "What if I had done ....?".
  • Improved analysis of business risks. While the approach to date has had a strong emphasis on farm and paddock specific analysis, the same tools can be used to conduct analyses at a district scale. This is of particular interest to suppliers of production inputs, including finance, as a means of managing risk. An outcome will be the trialing and institutionalisation of this by at least one major agribusiness firm and one private consultant operating as an individual.

Period: Starting date 1995-07; completion date: 1998-06

Status: completed

Keywords: crop management, decision support, simulation


Hochman, Z., Skerman, R., Cripps, G., Poulton, P. L. and Dalgliesh, N. P. (1998). A new sorghum planting strategy resulting from the synergy of farmer systemic knowledge and systematic simulation of sorghum production systems. Proceedings of the 9th Australian Agronomy Conference, Wagga Wagga. p. 537.

McCown, R. L., Carberry, P. S., Foale, M. A., Dalgliesh, N. P., Hochman, Z. and Coutts, J. A. (1997). Decision Support for Systems Back to Basics in Using Simulation to Assist Farmers in Managing Crops and Croplands in Northern Australia. American Society of Agronomy Crop Science Society, Anaheim, California.

McCown, R.L., Carberry, P.S., Foale, M.A., Hochman, Z., Coutts, J.A. and Dalgliesh, N.P. (1998). The FARMSCAPE approach to farming systems research. Proceedings of the 9th Australian Agronomy Conference, Wagga Wagga.


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