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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Development of Sustainable Production Systems and Water Management Technology for the Mid South

Location: Crop Production Systems Research Unit

Title: Exploring Agricultural Production Systems and Their Fundmental Components With Dynamic Modeling

Authors
item Sassenrath, Gretchen
item Hanson, Jonathan
item Hendrickson, John
item Archer, David
item Halloran, John
item Vadas, Peter

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 22, 2009
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Citation: Sassenrath, G.F., Hanson, J.D., Hendrickson, J.R., Archer, D.W., Halloran, J.M., Vadas, P.A. 2009. Exploring Agricultural Production Systems and Their Fundmental Components With Dynamic Modeling. Meeting Proceedings Farming Systems Design Conference, August 23-26, 2009, Monterey, California. 2009 CDROM

Interpretive Summary: The changes in agriculture, as in other aspects of society, have escalated in speed and extent. External influences, including heightened concerns for food safety and nutrition, increased input costs, and changes in consumer values and interests, impact the agricultural production system. These changes arise from a variety of factors both internal and external to agriculture, and include social, political, economic, environmental, and technological forces. Driving forces are both quantitative, allowing exact measurement of extent, and qualitative, such as changing consumer values. Interpretation of which forces predominate in a complex system such as agriculture is difficult. We are examining predominant agricultural systems in the US to discern key drivers impacting the systems. We developed a dynamic model to explore interactions between these drivers and the agricultural production and consumption cycles. We are interested in the potential sustainability of production systems, and the role of drivers in developing and maintaining such systems. Dynamic models allow us to examine complex systems and the forces shaping these systems in detail. By examining agricultural production systems and discerning overriding principles that impact production choices, we can design future agricultural production systems to address emerging concerns of society and address growing problems in food nutrition, abundance, and safety and environmental concerns.

Technical Abstract: Agriculture is changing due to transitions in consumer demands, input costs, and concerns for food safety and the environment. Agricultural systems are comprised of multidimensional components, are quantitative and qualitative, and interact in complex ways. We developed a dynamic modeling environment to explore agricultural systems and the interaction of drivers and characteristics. The key drivers of production systems are economic, environmental, and social. Economic drivers include return on investment, risk management, and marketing channels. Environmental drivers include natural resources, pests, and geographic distribution. Social drivers include internal social drivers of the farmer and farm family, and external social drivers of the community, consumer interest and support, and politics. The model incorporates the key drivers and explores interactions between them using data from case studies of current production operations. We use the model to test the role of each driver in determining the sustainability of current production systems and the change in sustainability with production choices. We explore whether integrated systems are more sustainable than conventional systems. The results from this research will impact the future design of agricultural production systems, the implementation of more sustainable practices, and the development of government policy that will lead to more sustainable agricultural production systems and a safer food supply.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014