To boost world corn production, scientists with the University of Florida and the agriculture company Monsanto are collaborating on an improved computer model designed to more accurately predict corn growth by making projections to show how the interactions between corn varieties, environmental conditions and management practices influence grain yield.
When completed in two to three years, the model will be placed in the public domain to help researchers conduct studies and provide information to policy makers, industry personnel and extension agents who deal directly with farmers, said Jim Jones, a distinguished service professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and a leader in the collaboration.
Jones and colleague Ken Boote, an agronomy professor, will lead the effort at UF.
Crop models play an increasingly important role in understanding the impact of climate change and decreasing water availability on agricultural production systems around the world, Boote said.
Because crop models are used to guide decisions on production practices and food security, they must represent current genetics and production practices to be effective, Jones said. But many of the models in use today do not take into account the advances seen in corn due to new technologies that have arisen in the past 20 years.
"The science has continued to move forward, so we need a model that reflects current knowledge," he said. "This is a great opportunity and the ultimate goal is to help farmers produce more corn, more consistently."
Sam Eathington, Monsanto vice president of global plant breeding, is also looking forward to the benefits this collaboration will bring to the public sector.
"University of Florida's wealth of experience and knowledge is complementary to that of Monsanto's," Eathington said. "With our elite pool of global maize germplasm and commitment of time and resources, we see this collaboration as an excellent opportunity to support public sector research and develop the gold standard of global maize crop simulation models."
The model will focus on corn varieties used for food, animal feed and fuel production, Boote said. It will also address the yield response of corn to stress factors including heat, drought, disease and pest pressures.
Once completed, the model will help UF researchers develop better assessments of potential climate effects on corn crops throughout the Southeast, and develop risk management information from those assessments.
They'll disseminate their findings through the AgroClimate website, http://agroclimate.org, a service of the Southeast Climate Consortium.
The new model will incorporate the best components from previous models and will be evaluated using information from global corn production data, Boote said. Before it's released to the public the model will be tested and verified through the scientific community.
Monsanto's collaboration in the corn model development effort is a key part of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project, or AgMIP, an influential modeling consortium organized primarily from the agriculture and climate modeling communities. AgMIP focuses on improving world food security in the face of climate change and enhancing climate-change adaptation capabilities in developed and developing countries, Boote said.
Personnel from UF, Columbia University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture lead the global AgMIP project. Overall, AgMIP involves more than 300 scientists in about 40 countries.