Infusing the use of seasonal climate forecasting into crop management practice in North East Australia using discussion support software
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Nelson, RA and Holzworth, DP and Hammer, GL and Hayman, PT, Infusing the use of seasonal climate forecasting into crop management practice in North East Australia using discussion support software, Agricultural Systems, 74, (3) pp. 393-414. ISSN 0308-521X (2002) [Refereed Article]
Seasonal climate forecasting offers potential for improving management of crop production risks in the cropping systems of NE Australia. But how is this capability best connected to management practice? Over the past decade, we have pursued participative systems approaches involving simulation-aided discussion with advisers and decision-makers. This has led to the development of discussion support software as a key vehicle for facilitating infusion of forecasting capability into practice. In this paper, we set out the basis of our approach, its implementation and preliminary evaluation. We outline the development of the discussion support software Whopper Cropper, which was designed for, and in close consultation with, public and private advisers. Whopper Cropper consists of a database of simulation output and a graphical user interface to generate analyses of risks associated with crop management options. The charts produced provide conversation pieces for advisers to use with their farmer clients in relation to the significant decisions they face. An example application, detail of the software development process and an initial survey of user needs are presented. We suggest that discussion support software is about moving beyond traditional notions of supply-driven decision support systems. Discussion support software is largely demand-driven and can compliment participatory action research programs by providing cost-effective general delivery of simulation-aided discussions about relevant management actions. The critical role of farm management advisers and dialogue among key players is highlighted. We argue that the discussion support concept, as exemplified by the software tool Whopper Cropper and the group processes surrounding it, provides an effective means to infuse innovations, like seasonal climate forecasting, into farming practice. Crown Copyright © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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