Ontario - Canada Logos
SWEEP Banner

SWEEP Report #33

Development of a Computer-Based Farm Decision
Support Framework: Phase I

ROBBERT Associates, Ottawa, Ontario

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report [436 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research



List By Number | List By Sub-Program

Completed: October, 1991

Key Words:

model, economics, yield, organic matter, corn, soil loss, no-till, farm management

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

This is the final report on Phase I of the project undertaken by ROBBERT Associates as part of the Technology Evaluation and Development (TED) Sub-Program of the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP). The project consisted of the design and implementation of a prototype computer-based farm management simulation framework that can be used at the level of the individual farm to examine the impact of tillage and cropping decisions on soil quality, nutrient loss to runoff, and farm income. The objective was to determine whether modelling techniques might be useful to effect the transfer of technology from the scientific community to the farm.

2. Project structure

The project was carried out by Michael Hoffman, Robert Hoffman and Bert McInnis of ROBBERT Associates working with an advisory group consisting of Bob Fletcher, Dave Charlton and George Schell of Ecological Services for Planning, Don Lobb and Doug Smith (both farmers), Wally Findlay of Agriculture Canada, and John Schleihauf from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The project commenced in June, 1990 and was concluded in March 1991. The advisory group met on four occasions with ROBBERT Associates, July 13, 1990, November 29, 1990, March 27, 1991, and April 11, 1991. Both the April and March meetings involved interaction with the computer system.

A poster presentation was displayed at the TED Tillage 2000 Conference held in London on March 4-5, 1991. A copy of the handout that accompanied the poster is appended to this report.

3. Structure of the Farm Management Framework

The structure of the Farm Management Framework (FMF) is documented in the FMF Manual (Ref. 10). The Farm Management Framework consists of fifteen calculators or independently executable submodels organized in a hierarchy composed of five major components:

  • Cropping component that represents all aspects of crop production including soil productivity

  • crop relationships;

  • Livestock component that represents all aspects of the production of dairy and livestock products;

  • Crop and Manure Balance component that keeps track of the interdependence between cropping and livestock operations;

  • Equipment component that keeps track of the equipment needed for field operations and its utilization in terms of operator time and fuel;

  • Farm Finance component that represents the elements farm income and outlay separately for cropping and livestock operations and a capital expenditures account.

The Framework is designed to simulate farm operations to a time horizon of fifty years from the present. Calculations are performed with a one year time-step.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

A computer model was developed to simulate the effect of farm management techniques. The program is intended to support the analysis of alternative farm management strategies. The Farm Management Framework consists of five components (cropping, livestock, crop and manure balance, equipment and farm finance). The model simulates farm operations for a period of fifty years from the present, with calculations made every year.

An artificial farm consisting of four 40 hectare fields was created. Each field was similar in size, soil type and organic matter content but differed in topography. Two scenarios were run: (1) continuous corn grown on all four fields using conventional tillage and (2) corn underseeded with rye grown on all four fields using no-till cultivation. The output, in the form of graphs, provides an interesting picture of what could happen in each scenario.

The report suggests that further development is needed to improve the structure of the model, to incorporate better scientific data on soil and crop characteristics, and to calibrate the model on a small number of farms.


This appears to be a good start towards developing a model which could be used to illustrate to farmers the effect of their current or proposed farm management system on farm income, soil loss, organic matter content and crop yield for a period of 50 years. At this stage it is a long way from widespread use as an extension tool.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #38 - Management of Farm Field Variability. I. Quantification of Soil Loss in Complex Topography. II. Soil Erosion Processes on Shoulder Slope Landscape Positions.

  • SWEEP Report #45 - Management of Farm Field Variability. III. Effect of Tillage Systems on Soil and Phosphorus Loss

  • SWEEP Report #46 - Management of Farm Field Variability. IV. Crop Yield, Tillage System, and Soil Landform Relationships

  • SWEEP Report #49B - Land Reshaping of Lowland Clay Soils II. Modelling Report

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

(C) Further develop the model for use as an extension tool as the report outlines.




List By Number | List By Sub-Program | LSP Report List


Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:52:02 PM