Advances in farming systems analysis and
*, R.L. McCown
APSRU/CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 120 Meiers Road, Indooroopilly, Brisbane, 4068 Australia
APSRU/CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 102 Tor Street, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Accepted 30 March2001
In this paper, we recognize two key components of farming systems, namely the bio-
physical ‘Production System’ of crops, pastures, animals, soil and climate, together with cer-
tain physical inputs and outputs, and the ‘Management System’, made up of people, values,
goals, knowledge, resources, monitoring opportunities, and decision making. Utilising upon
these constructs, we review six types of farming systems analysis and intervention that have
evolved over the last 40 years, namely: (1) economic decision analysis based on production
functions, (2) dynamic simulation of production processes, (3) economic decision analysis
linked to biophysical simulation, (4) decision support systems, (5) expert systems, and
(6) simulation-aided discussions about management in an action researchparadigm. Biophy-
sical simulation modelling features prominently in this list of approaches and considerable
progress has been made in both the scope and predictive power of the modelling tools. We
illustrate some more recent advances in increasing model comprehensiveness in simulating
farm production systems via reference to our own group’s work withthe Agricultural Pro-
duction Systems Simulator (APSIM). Two case studies are discussed, one withbroad-scale
commercial agriculture in north-eastern Australia and the other with resource poor small-
holder farmers in Africa. We conclude by considering future directions for systems analysis
eﬀorts directed at farming systems. We see the major challenges and opportunities lying at the
interface of ‘hard’, scientiﬁc approaches to the analysis of biophysical systems and ‘soft’,
approaches to intervention in social management systems. # 2001 Published by Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Farming systems; Modelling; Decision support; DSS; FARMSCAPE; APSIM
0308-521X/01/$ - see front matter # 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Agricultural Systems 70 (2001) 555–579
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: email@example.com (B.A. Keating).