University of Florida

Research: Information Systems

Research project in Information Systems

  • Watch a video on AgroClimate systems and tools for growers

Understanding Climate-Related Risks in Agricultural Systems
and Applying Climate Information for Decision Support

Investigators: Jones, J. W.; Fraisse, C. W.; Ingram, K. T.; Boote, K. J.

Climate varies considerably from year to year and this variability has major impacts on agricultural production. Scientists now understand sources of some of the year to year differences in rainfall and now have methods to forecast climate several months in advance. A majority of crop failures in the USA are associated with either drought conditions or excess rainfall. If such conditions could be anticipated ahead of time, farmers may be able to adjust practices to reduce risks to losses or take advantage of anticipated favorable conditions. However, the forecasts can potentially reduce but not eliminate risks associated with climate variability. The problem is that incorrect use of climate forecasts may increase risks. This research is designed to understand climate forecasts and how they can be used safely to benefit farmers in Florida. The overall purpose of this project is to investigate interactions of climate, crops, and management practices and methods for using climate forecasts for decision support in Florida.


  • Develop methods for forecasting agricultural responses to annual climate variability and for quantifying the uncertainties associated with forecasts.
  • Identify agricultural management options that reduce risks associated with climate variability for major cropping systems in Florida.
  • Develop methods for developing climate and weather information for agricultural system decision support to reduce risks.

Food, Feed, Fuel, And Fiber: Security Under A Changing Climate

Investigator: Fraisse, C. W.

Climate changes in response to natural phenomena across a range of time-scales. Evidence suggests that climate is now also changing as a result of human activities, such as emission of greenhouse gases and changing land uses. The fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that global average mean temperature and the frequency of hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation, will very likely increase in response to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The IPCC report also concluded that the globally averaged net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming. Society will have to make decisions in the coming years about how to adapt to a changing climate. Climate variability and climate change create risks to all sectors of the economy. Climate is already a prime factor in 9 out of 10 disasters, many of which cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Effective preparation for possible effects of climate change in the future includes the engagement of resource managers, planners, public works officials, local managers, community development specialists, businesses, residents and property owners. The challenge is to provide these diverse stakeholders with trusted, useful, science-based information so that they in turn can make informed decisions. Under this project we will develop and provide climate information and decision support tools to help agriculture managers better cope with uncertainty and risks associated with climate variability and change. We propose to enhance the understanding of crop-climate-soil interaction at a regional scale, develop risk assessment tools using climate datasets and mathematical models that simulate the effect of climate scenarios on crop development and yield, and disseminate research outcomes on the potential effects of climate change on crop production and adaptation options to users and stakeholders.


Our overall goal is to develop and provide climate information and decision support tools to help agriculture, forestry, and water resource managers better cope with uncertainty and risks associated with climate variability and change. Specific objectives include:

  • Enhance the understanding of crop-climate-soil interaction at a regional scale: 1a. Enhance existing database by developing new agro-climatological variables for risk assessment of crop production in the region 1b.Maintain and update current database and metadata with climate, crops and soils variables for enhanced analysis and dissemination to clientele 1c.Enhance the current NC-1018 database with climate data that will be developed based on climate change projection models.
  • Application of risk assessment tools, including the existing NC-1018 database, for the crop-climate-soils interface on a regional scale: 2a. Crop production risks due to the variability of crop-climate-soils: under this objective we will continue to develop and enhance plant, soil, and pest models that are capable of evaluating crop production systems responses to environmental challenges 2b.Potential effects of climate change on crop production at a regional scale. 2c. Evaluate potential and active strategies for crop management adaptation on a regional basis in the face of climate change.
  • Enhance the understanding of potential bioenergy production systems: 3a. Use existing crop simulation models to determine the appropriate bioenergy species for sub-regions based on climate. 3b. Develop cropping systems to include both food, fiber, and fuel crops that maintain food security
  • Disseminate the research outcomes on the potential effects of climate variability and climate change effects on crop production resource use and adaptation options to users and stakeholders.

Modeling For Tmdl Development And Watershed Based Planning, Management And Assessment

Investigator: Kiker, G.A.

The primary research outlook for this project will focus on providing a useful and integrated model/decision tool set that can be used by local stakeholders and decision-makers to structure, iterate and adaptively manage complex environmental problems at both smaller and larger scales. While development of agro-ecological and hydrological models are a critical part of this effort, the intended use of the information within complex decision-making must also be designed and implemented along with the modeling components. Developing a practical, integrated modeling and decision framework is the focus of the research covered in this project.


  • Develop rapid assessment tools that can be used to best place limited financial assistance available to address these issues
  • Evaluate watershed simulation models and their potential to give realistic and economic assessments on a range of scales from the watershed to the individual farm.
  • Assess the social and economic aspects of changing current practices to ones that are more environmentally responsive.

Improved Resource Management for Profitable and
Environmentally Sound Integrated Cropping Systems

ABE Faculty Participants: H.W. Beck; M.D. Dukes


  • To determine the effects of nutrient concentration and soil temperature on nutrient uptake dynamics and crop nutrient requirements and integrate this information in conceptual models and decision support systems.
  • To design and evaluate improved irrigation systems and irrigation scheduling techniques for Florida crops.
  • To develop integrated cropping systems, featuring improved use of crop residues that will improve nutrient retention, profitability and sustainability of regional agricultural production systems.
  • To design and test improved irrigation, crop nutrition, and weed control guidelines for alternative (organic) production systems.
  • To implement user-friendly information systems and decision support tools for growers that will allow successful implementation of site-specific BMPs for efficient use of water and nutrients and to minimize the risk of environmental degradation.

Integrated Agro-Ecological and Hydrological Modeling for Analysis of Complex, Adaptive Environmental Decisions

ABE Faculty Participants: Kiker, G.A.

Given the current state of decision-making in adaptive environmental management projects, there is a significant need for integrated tools that allow decision makers and stakeholders to systematically engage complex, scale-varied, environmental problems. Recent environmental assessment efforts have identified this need. Computer simulation models and interactive decision tools/games coupled with human interaction methodologies have been suggested as one solution to create adaptive learning environments. In addition, scenario analysis provides a powerful way to think about uncertainty and risk. Scenarios are sets of possible future worlds in which strategic options provide storylines for these envisioning futures to be played out under social, political and economic realities. Objectives of this research effort include the construction of a flexible framework for scoping problems in a systematic method, the creation of viable integrated simulation, decision and scenario tools for managing the various elements of complex environmental challenges (namely interaction, visualization and calculation) and the application at sites of various scales and locations.


  • Construct an overall methodological framework to integrate model creation, model simulation, decision/scenario analysis and adaptive learning.
  • Develop computer programs for the construction and use of simulation models and scenarios for scale-varied, complex environmental challenges.
  • Explore and test the scenario model framework on different case study areas to illustrate adaptive learning and management with different scenarios, models and scales.

Center for Food Distribution and Retailing

ABE Faculty Participants: Emond, J.P., A.A.Teixera, G. Kiker

The retail food industry in the U.S. generates about $930 billion in sales and employs about 15.6 million people (FMI, 2005b; NRA, 2005). More than 50% of these sales each year are generated by perishables food products such as produce, meat, fish, and baked goods. In order to maintain adequate revenues per year, retail grocery stores must rely on volume since the average profit is less than 1% (FMI, 2005a). Key factors for this industry include limiting losses, ensuring safety, and always innovating in order to keep or gain market share. Most of the research conducted in this area has been limited to specific aspects of relatively small segments of the overall distribution chain. In order to study the impact of new technologies, products, or operations, it is important to approach the whole chain in a multidisciplinary way. The main fields of expertise required for this kind of research are: engineering, animal and horticultural sciences, food science, and economics. With these disciplines, it is possible to cover all aspects involved in a distribution chain from the growers to the retail stores. The mission of the UF/IFAS Center for Food Distribution and Retailing is to provide the food industry and the scientific community with a unique environment for developing knowledge that will assure food quality and safety throughout the whole distribution chain. While the primary focus is the Florida Industry, the Center for Food Distribution and Retailing will have direct impacts on this industry throughout the world.


  • Provide a focal point for multidisciplinary research activities to meet the needs of businesses to provide healthy and high quality foods to consumers.
  • Develop innovative and economically viable technologies and practices related tp perishables packaging, refrigeration equipment, transportation, logistics and operations.
  • Develop new processing procedures and new healthy and high quality fresh and value-added food items that are desirable to consumers.
  • Determine how processing procedures, the distribution and retail environments, and related technologies contribute to maintaining the shelf life, quality and safety required to successfully market perishables.
  • Elucidate the relationship between food handling and marketing practices and the consumer, including trends in consumer attitudes and preferences and how handling practices and technologies can address consumer demands.