Iowa State University Joins APSIM Initiative

The Iowa State University Department of Agronomy is the first North American entity to join the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) Initiative. The partnership converges advanced modelling technology from APSIM with decades of agricultural knowledge and experience from Iowa State.

APSIM is internationally recognized as a highly advanced simulator of agricultural systems. The unique set of tools provides accurate predictions of crop production in relation to climate, genotype, soil and management factors while addressing ongoing climate risks. The Iowa State Department of Agronomy has been using the APSIM platform for 10 years.

“APSIM is used extensively to model a range of crops by research, government and industry parties around the world,” said Professor Gavin Ash, current chair of the APSIM Initiative Steering Committee and executive director for the Institute for Life Science and the Environment at the University of Southern Queensland.

The APSIM Initiative is a collaboration between Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, the Queensland Government, The University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, and internationally with AgResearch Ltd in New Zealand and now, Iowa State University in the United States.

“The addition of Iowa State University to the APSIM Initiative clearly demonstrates that this platform is leading the world with global applications in teaching and research,” Ash said.

The APSIM Initiative enables developments in agricultural systems modelling to be captured more rapidly and effectively within the APSIM infrastructure. Specifically, the goals are to create a joint venture of research organizations that wish to lead and contribute to the ongoing development and use of APSIM.

Additionally, the group seeks to co-develop and manage APSIM as a high-quality, world-class research tool in its field by ensuring that APSIM is developed by the facilitation of broadly-based collaborative science.

“Simulation software like APSIM can be thought of as the theory of agronomy,” said  Kendall Lamkey, ISU agronomy department chair and professor. “Simulation software allows us to ask better questions, predict the outcomes of field experiments before they are designed, and look at the long-term impact of different management and climate scenarios. ASPIM is the most advanced platform available that allows this.”

Computer simulations are only as robust as their data and programming. Building better models requires better data. Iowa State’s contribution to the program over the years has amassed a significant amount of agricultural data from the United States to strengthen the model by providing data and expertise on North American-specific issues such as wet soils and corn and soybean crops.

“Having ISU on board with the APSIM initiative strengthens the collaborative model for the development of the platform and provides a basis for testing the platform under new conditions, ultimately leading to a more robust system of models,” Ash said.

Iowa State University leverages the APSIM program across interdisciplinary research teams looking at climate, plant physiology, soil science, plant breeding, engineering and machine learning. The program is critical in the land-grant mission of the university by serving as the centerpiece of extension efforts educating producers across Iowa and the Midwest. In the future, Iowa State hopes to integrate APSIM into the undergraduate curriculum to help future agronomists understand how genetics, management and environment interact in production systems.

For five years, Iowa State University has hosted a workshop about APSIM for academic and industry colleagues. Iowa State University will continue these efforts and serve as a local point of contact in the United States.

The APSIM software accelerates multidisciplinary research and development of new hypotheses. Without such a framework, it is hard to connect different disciplines such as plant breeding and soil chemistry.

“The future of science is global and collaborative,” Ash said. “APSIM is the nexus between a range of agricultural disciplines which can be used to develop and test new hypotheses, leading to more efficient agricultural systems that will sustainably feed the world’s population.”

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