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GPFARM: 'Far Out' Aid For Great Plains Farmers

Sunday, February 1, 1998
filed under: Planting Systems

A new USDA-developed computer program can give Great Plains farmers and ranches new insight into the economic and environmental effects of their management programs as much as 10 years into the future.

The program, called a “decision support system,” is named GPFARM — short for Great Plains Framework for Agricultural Resource Management. USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Fort Collins, Colo., developed GPFARM in collaboration with colleagues at Colorado State University.

The ARS scientists say GPFARM is the first agricultural decision support software program of its kind designed to run under the Microsoft Windows 95 operating system. Scientists are beta-testing a prototype with about 30 farmers, agricultural consultants and USDA action agencies. They hope to release Version 1.0 to users in September. The program will be available free of charge on CD-ROM or via the Internet.

GPFARM will let managers design and compare alternative farming and ranching strategies on the computer before implementing them in the field. It could, says ARS, lead to better decisions — economically as well as environmentally — on applying water, fertilizers and pesticides to cropland.

GPFARM works by simulating biological, chemical and physical interactions of soils, crops, animals and climate, taking into account how customized management decisions affect these interactions. It also simulates how management decisions will affect soil productivity, animal production and wind and water erosion. Simulation results are displayed as narrative text, tables and two- and three-dimensional graphics. Using GPFARM, a typical desktop personal computer purchased in the past couple years can produce an average farm or ranch analysis in 30 minutes or less.

GPFARM has built-in databases for soils, land use, climate, chemicals and management. Users provide site-specific data for their particular farm or ranch operation.
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