Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Re-inventing model-based decision support with Australian dryland farmers. 2. Pragmatic provision of soil information for paddock-specific simulation and farmer decision making

N. P. Dalgliesh A C , M. A. Foale B and R. L. McCown A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit (APSRU), CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 203 Tor Street (PO BOX 102), Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

B Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit (APSRU), CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: Neal.Dalgliesh@csiro.au

Crop and Pasture Science 60(11) 1031-1043 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP08459
Submitted: 19 December 2008  Accepted: 15 July 2009   Published: 19 October 2009

Abstract

Economic and climatic pressures are forcing many Australian dryland farmers to reassess their management of soil resources and climatic risk. FARMSCAPE intervention has offered enhanced soil characterisation and monitoring as a contribution to soil water and nitrogen inventory, and simulation as a contribution to interpretation of locally measured environmental data in stochastic production terms. This paper relates the journey taken by the farmers, their consultants, and the researchers as they worked together to assess the value to farming and consulting practice of these scientific tools and techniques.

Ten years after FARMSCAPE interactions commenced, a sample of participant farmers and consultants was interviewed to evaluate effects on thinking and practice. Understandings and concepts gained in FARMSCAPE continued to guide thinking and action. Early simulations in response to ‘what if...?’ enquiries of strategic importance, such as crop sequencing and rotation choice, were still referred to as learnings of continuing value. However, techniques and practices varied markedly between individuals and organisations. Monitoring of soil resources varied from continued use of the relatively complex tools and techniques provided by the researchers through to the use of much-simplified techniques that provided adequate information to satisfy the conceptual models. Methods for interpreting soil water ranged from use of the simulator, APSIM, to simple water-use efficiency ‘rules of thumb’.

Additional keywords: soil characterisation, monitoring, participation, evaluation.


Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to the farmers and consultants of the northern cropping region for their willingness to engage with researchers over an extended period in the FARMSCAPE journey. Their time, always freely given, and their input to the process and to the learning are greatly appreciated. Thanks also to those who were asked to participate in the evaluation process, which consisted mostly of lengthy interviews conducted by the authors. The interviewees’ permission to publish verbatim some of their responses is also appreciated.


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