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. 4. Yield Prophet® helps farmers monitor and manage crops in a variable climate

Z. Hochman A F , H. van Rees B C , P. S. Carberry D , J. R. Hunt B , R. L. McCown D , A. Gartmann B , D. Holzworth D , S. van Rees B , N. P. Dalgliesh D , W. Long E , A. S. Peake D , P. L. Poulton D and T. McClelland B
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

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

B BCG, PO Box 85, Birchip, Vic. 3483, Australia.

C Cropfacts P/L, 69 Rooney Rd, RSD Strathfieldsaye, Vic. 3551, Australia.

D Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit (APSRU), CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, PO Box 103, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

E Ag Consulting Co., PO Box 70, Ardrossan, SA 5571, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: zvi.hochman@csiro.au

Crop and Pasture Science 60(11) 1057-1070 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP09020
Submitted: 18 January 2009  Accepted: 23 July 2009   Published: 19 October 2009

Abstract

In Australia, a land subject to high annual variation in grain yields, farmers find it challenging to adjust crop production inputs to yield prospects. Scientists have responded to this problem by developing Decision Support Systems, yet the scientists’ enthusiasm for developing these tools has not been reciprocated by farm managers or their advisers, who mostly continue to avoid their use.

Preceding papers in this series described the FARMSCAPE intervention: a new paradigm for decision support that had significant effects on farmers and their advisers. These effects were achieved in large measure because of the intensive effort which scientists invested in engaging with their clients. However, such intensive effort is time consuming and economically unsustainable and there remained a need for a more cost-effective tool. In this paper, we report on the evolution, structure, and performance of Yield Prophet®: an internet service designed to move on from the FARMSCAPE model to a less intensive, yet high quality, service to reduce farmer uncertainty about yield prospects and the potential effects of alternative management practices on crop production and income.

Compared with conventional Decision Support Systems, Yield Prophet offers flexibility in problem definition and allows farmers to more realistically specify the problems in their fields. Yield Prophet also uniquely provides a means for virtual monitoring of the progress of a crop throughout the season. This is particularly important for in-season decision support and for frequent reviewing, in real time, of the consequences of past decisions and past events on likely future outcomes.

The Yield Prophet approach to decision support is consistent with two important, but often ignored, lessons from decision science: that managers make their decisions by satisficing rather than optimising and that managers’ fluid approach to decision making requires ongoing monitoring of the consequences of past decisions.

Additional keywords: DSS, APSIM, climate risk, risk management, wheat, barley.


Acknowledgments

The authors of this paper acknowledge the support of CSIRO and BCG for their commitment to this applied systems research program. The financial support provided by Land and Water Australia’s (LWA) Managing Climate Variability R&D Program, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts’ (DCITA) Information Technology Online (ITOL) Program, and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) is gratefully acknowledged. The project would not exist without the enthusiastic and vital participation of the many farmers, agronomic consultants, and state department consultants who are too numerous to name individually. The authors also acknowledge the significant contributions made by CSIRO’s Lisa Brennan, Toni Darbas, Jane Fisher, and Cristine Hall through feedback they provided on their work in evaluating the adoption of YP.


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