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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Research » Research Project #444348

Research Project: Developing Southern Plains Region Management And Resiliency Tools for Agricultural Systems (SMART Ag Systems)

Location: Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center

Project Number: 3070-12610-001-014-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2023
End Date: May 31, 2025

The Cooperator will develop a suite of agricultural production and supply chain models, grounded in system dynamics methodology (Turner et al. 2016), to: a) measure currently unquantified production and financial risks of climate change to the Southern Plains Region’s economically important commodity systems, and b) evaluate the trade-offs of alternative management strategies in light of climate change risks and identify high leverage management strategies for the region. The tools will be useful for evaluating regional climate change risk and impacts to agricultural commodity systems important to the region (e.g., beef cattle, wheat, cotton, sorghum, among others) and aid in identification, dissemination, and implementation of high leverage strategies to mitigate such impacts.

System dynamics modeling is a methodology for studying complex systems and uses a variety of qualitative social science, quantitative and computer simulation, and stakeholder participation techniques in order to capture dynamic and complex structures and how they behave or perform over time (Sterman 2000). This approach is appropriate for this project given that agricultural systems are characterized by a high degree of complexity, with systems made up of interactions and feedbacks between soil, water, animal, management, financial, marketing, and economic subsystems. Such interactions and their feedbacks are difficult to quantify and experiment using reductionist methodologies specifically tailored to only one subsystem (e.g., soil-water management vs. crop market policy). Explicit quantification of agricultural systems via a systems approach is a logical next step forward from previous vulnerability assessments which relied on expert opinion and resulted in descriptive rather than quantifiable outcomes (Steiner et al 2015). A minimum of two commodity production systems models will be constructed and analyzed: beef production (Bos taurus/Bos indicus) and winter wheat (Triticum aestivum). Data will be collected from a variety of sources to capture variations in soil resources and water availability, climate variability, as well as industry structure information, contemporary management practices at farm- and supply-chain levels, and existing policy structures which influence natural resource and business management efforts. The systems modeling process proceeds from model conceptualization and development (made in collaboration with external stakeholders), model testing and analysis (for supply chain outcomes resulting from varying climate projects), and then dissemination of results back to stakeholders. Proposed timeline: • August 2023: Post-doc on-boarding • September-December 2023: Establish relationships with external collaborators; model conceptualization and development activity; data collection and refinement for model calibration and testing; begin model documentation • January-April 2024: Model calibration; Climate scenarios developed for model testing; Potential mitigation strategies identified with external collaborators; begin writing model calibration and analysis • May-August 2024: Model calibration and refinement; Climate scenarios translated into model structure for testing; preliminary tests of mitigation strategies to evaluate model; complete writing on model calibration and analysis; plan publication and outreach strategies • August-December 2024: Model testing; analysis of simulation data for risk/vulnerability assessment; begin writing model experimentation and testing; preliminary analysis of data • January-April 2025: Refine and complete model testing; analysis of simulation data for risk/vulnerability assessment (refined as needed); data analysis and writing results • May-August 2025: Complete written reports, data analysis; Communicate results with collaborators and external stakeholders; disseminate in outreach activities; proposal submissions for synergistic funding.