Helping envision the future by developing and assessing new opportunities for agricultural landscapes.
Agricultural systems are complex and decisions at the farm or watershed scale often affect a whole range of outcomes. For example, choosing what crops to grow or how to manage them can influence not only the production of forage, but also soil erosion, farm profitability, water quality, or how a farm supports wildlife.
We are currently developing easy to use web-based decision-support tools (DST) that will help users explore “what-if” scenarios associated with changing the crops grown on a farm, and how they are managed, or in an entire landscape. These tools are meant to be similar to a performance dashboard for a farm or larger landscape to see how different economic and environmental indicators change, interact, or trade-off as changes to agriculture are explored. These tools are built using the best available science and data to inform a series of models that explore the performance of the agricultural landscape across a range of plausible, user-defined scenarios.
To help farmers and grazing planner explore the effects of adding grazed grasslands to their farms, we are collaborating with the Pasture Project at Winrock International to develop GrazeScape™, a decision support tool that will illuminate tradeoffs and synergies in economic returns, soil health, water quality, and biodiversity within a farm enterprise.
The SmartScape™ DST is meant to be used across larger watersheds and allows communities of stakeholders to co-design and evaluate landscape-level agricultural transformations. hese tools will allow users to explore how farms and landscapes simultaneously perform on a range of agronomic (crop yields, dairy or beef production), economic (net profits), as well as ecosystem outcomes (soil erosion, phosphorus loss, biodiversity support) under different management and grassland scenarios. An earlier version of this tool is currently available through the Wisconsin Energy Institute.
Together these two tools will be used and integrated across the various project components to engage with people in many different sectors of the food system (farmer, food processor, retailer, consumer, regional planner, policy maker) and create opportunities to envision and assess alternative agricultural scenarios based on shared values (e.g., water quality, farm viability).