Participants at the systems modeling workshop. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Enabling better on-farm decisions through systems modeling tools

Participants at the systems modeling workshop. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Participants at the systems modeling workshop. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

The use of systems modeling tools is being accelerated to identify farming systems that are best suited to a particular region. To enable scientists from various national agricultural research organizations to gain expertise in this area, a workshop, ‘Integrating Systems Modelling Tools to Support the Scaling of Climate Smart Agriculture in Semi-Arid Regions’, was conducted at ICRISAT-India.

The focus was on the application of advanced modeling tools – spatial analysis for mapping, tools to create climate series and climate change scenarios, climate data downscaling, future climate data generation, cropping systems modeling for alternate scenarios under climate change, and whole farm (bio-economic) modeling to assess impacts of climate change as well as that of climate-smart interventions on resource use and household cash flows.

After a short study on the use of geospatial tools in monitoring croplands, participants gained hands-on experience in generating future climatic scenarios based on global projections. As part of the session on climate analysis and cropping systems modeling, they generated location-specific daily climatic conditions. They assessed the impacts of climate change by linking these climatic conditions with the systems simulation model Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM). Besides setting and running APSIM for different crops and management scenarios, the participants learned to analyze the data and correctly interpret the results. They evaluated the projected impacts not only on grain and biomass yields but also on changes in the soil, water and other environmental conditions.

Another session on whole farm system modeling saw participants learn the ropes of linking the results from the cropping systems model (APSIM) with a ‘household’ model via an Integrated Assessment Tool for a greater understanding of  how these changes impacted gross margins, income and cash flows of a farm household during different months of the year.

The participants were divided into three region-based groups of Telangana, Rajasthan and Haryana. Scientists simulated scenarios for their respective regions based on the geography and climate. They parameterized data such as farmland type and area, family and hired labor supply and demand, labor activities, farm overheads and living expenses, crop details on other inputs and outputs, fodder purchased and livestock details. The model enabled them to predict cash flow from crops, livestock and non-farm activities over the years.

This was followed by the three groups presenting results of their respective regional scenarios. The groups will be working together with cropping systems modelers using real farm household data collected from each of the three regions to produce a joint publication by the end of this year on assessing the impact of climate change, climate-smart interventions and markets on farm household cash flows. Such a report would help in informed decision making by stakeholders, including extension systems and policy makers.

Key takeaway: The training program was aimed to promote systems thinking in assessing the impacts of climate-smart interventions. In other words, clarity on the individual components of the modeling systems and learning how to link them together for best results was at the center of the exercise. By the end of the workshop, participants knew how to use the integrated assessment tool, parameterize the model, and understand and interpret the results. This knowledge will empower them to design more efficient and effective climate-smart and markets-based interventions for farmers.

The three-day workshop held on 3-5 May saw the participation of over 30 scientists from six Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes – Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS), National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (NIANP), National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP); two State Agricultural Universities – Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) and Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU); and ICRISAT’s Innovation Systems for the Drylands and Asia Programs.

Dr MK Gumma, Dr Dakshinamurthy, Dr KPC Rao and Dr Shalander Kumar conducted the various workshop sessions.

More on crop simulation modeling

ICAR-ICRISAT Collaborative Project: Integrating systems modeling tools enabling informed decisions for upscaling climate smart agriculture
CRP: Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
Funders: ICAR and CCAFS
This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

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