SUSTAINABLE CROPPING SYSTEMS FOR THE NORTHEAST
Location: New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory
Title: The Potato Systems Planner: A Successful Decision Support Tool for Growers
Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 15, 2007
Publication Date: September 10, 2007
Citation: Honeycutt, C.W., Larkin, R.P., Halloran, J.M., Griffin, T.S. 2007. The Potato Systems Planner: A Successful Decision Support Tool for Growers. Symposium Proceedings. 2007, pg 87-88.
An interdisciplinary team evaluated 14 cropping systems for their impacts on potato yield and quality, nutrient availability, plant diseases, soil microorganisms, potential profitability, economic risk, and other factors. Results were integrated into the “Potato Systems Planner” decision support tool, which has been enthusiastically received with over 1100 copies distributed to growers, consultants, extension specialists, and scientists in 28 countries. Growers are adopting new cropping systems based on this information. For example, the Planner showed that growing canola before potato reduces soil-born diseases by 20-50%. The resulting improvements in potato yield, quality, and sustainability have led to significant increases in canola-potato cropping systems. A number of reasons contribute to the Potato Systems Planner’s success. Namely, 1) the information needed by growers was first determined by the growers themselves; 2) research was designed to address those priority needs identified by growers; 3) the research was conducted by an interdisciplinary team in a manner reflecting the truly interdisciplinary nature of the systems evaluated; 4) the Decision Support System was designed for easy use by growers, recognizing that growers must in practice be the integrators across disciplines; 5) a trial version of the Planner was field-tested and modified based on grower feedback; 6) special emphasis was placed on the growers’ “bottom line”, i.e., the profitability and economic risk of each cropping system; and 7) significant efforts were made to advertise, demonstrate, and freely distribute the Planner at local to international scales. Incorporating such approaches and attributes into planning, development, and technology transfer using Decision Support Systems significantly contributes to their potential for positive impact.