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Application and Testing of GPFARM: A Farm and Ranch Decision Support System for Evaluating Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Agricultural Enterprises

McMaster, G.S., Ascough, J.C. II, Dunn, G.H., Weltz, M.A., Shaffer, M.J., Palic, D., Vandenberg, B.C., Bartling, P.N.S., Edmunds, D., Hoag, D.L., Ahuja, L.R.
Acta horticulturae 2002 no.593 pp. 171
decision support systems, computer software, resource allocation, simulation models, economic analysis, farms, ranching, business management, information sources, crop production, range management, soil management, environmental impact, sustainable agriculture
GPFARM is a decision support system (DSS) software package currently being developed by the USDA-ARS Great Plains Systems Research Unit. The primary goal of the Great Plains Framework for Agricultural Resource Management (GPFARM) DSS is to provide farmers and ranchers with a strategic tool to evaluate long-term effects of management and resource allocation on economic and environmental sustainability. The software program incorporates three stand-alone components: a science simulation model, an economic analysis tool, and a WWW-based agricultural information system. The simulation model can be run with either historical or generated climate data. The economic analysis tool calculates costs and returns from either model simulation output or actual farm/ranch enterprise data. Evaluating and testing GPFARM is being accomplished in many ways and on various levels. This paper focuses on GPFARM on-farm/ranch testing in collaboration with producers in three states. Two levels of on-farm testing are being performed in order to validate GPFARM. In the first, referred to as enterprise testing, detailed whole farm or ranch enterprise data are collected on resources (e.g., soils), management practices, and economics. The information is entered into GPFARM, simulations are run, and system output is evaluated by cooperators. The second level of testing, referred to as scientific testing, involves collecting similar information as in enterprise testing. However, soil sampling and analysis are conducted at planting and harvest on select fields. In addition, crop yields (determined by yield monitors) are analyzed, and on-site precipitation is collected during the growing season. We conclude this paper with valuable lessons learned in working with cooperators and conducting on-farm/ranch testing of the GPFARM DSS.