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Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Dr. James W. Jones

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Agricultural Systems Modeling

Member, National Academy of Engineering (2012)
, American Society of Agricultural Engineers
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Fellow, American Society of Agronomy
Fellow, Soil Science Society of America

Dr. James (Jim) Jones is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, retiring from the department in 2010. He continued to work on research projects until 2016 when he accepted an invitation to serve as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and co-lead the major funding multidisciplinary and multi-agency opportunity (Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems, jointly funded by NSF and USDA-NIFA). While at NSF, he led the development of a new multidisciplinary research initiative called Signals in the Soil (SitS). He completed his responsibilities at NSF late in 2019, and he now works part time at the University of Florida on various initiatives locally, nationally, and internationally.

He developed a remarkable career based on mathematical modeling and computer simulation to integrate scientific knowledge from different disciplines for use in agricultural decision-making. His work has been acknowledged through his advanced rank at the university, through numerous awards and honors, and through the careers of many scientists he has trained. Dr. Jones was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012.

Jones created a process that integrated models for several crops that he and his colleagues developed and models developed elsewhere that used different structures and data and reworked them so that they could all fit into a unified modeling scheme, effectively creating a standard framework for additional crops. He also added more components to the models, including soil fertility and pest management. This modular approach made it was relatively simple to extend the model framework to include more crops and to address more complex scenarios.

The "model," which was actually a collection of integrated models, was known as the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer, or DSSAT, and it has been continually improved and published for over 30 years. The technology transfer part of the name refers to the idea that agricultural technologies can be tested in the computer to reduce the number of field experiments needed before a producer makes a commitment to them. The system also allows one to consider future climate effects and management technologies on likely production and resource use. The effect of this has been to promote modern agricultural technology and management techniques and to increase food and fiber production in many regions of the world. Jones' expertise has taken him to many countries to educate and advise, leaving behind valuable tools that local authorities and producers can use. This system is still being updated and maintained under the leadership of faculty at the University of Florida. Papers published by Jones and his team are widely cited (see Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer [DSSAT]). The suite of tools can be freely downloaded, and there continues to be many users and contributors in the USA and other countries.

In the late 1990s, Jones became interested in developing a suite of applied models that would bring advances in climate prediction to agricultural producers. What came out of this effort was the Southeast Climate Consortium, which grew to include research and extension workers from eight universities in five southeastern states. The tools are still being delivered through AgroClimate, a website where extension agents and agricultural producers can access and use the expanding collection of climate-based applications. AgroClimate is supported by a team of scientists and educators who train producers how climate and decision support tools can benefit their operations. At the same time, the AgroClimate team learns from the producers and develops new tools and new approaches that meet their needs.

The SECC was a highly successful model initiative. Jones extended this idea, collaborating with climate scientists at Florida State University, to create a new climate research consortium called the Florida Climate Institute (FCI). The FCI now has ten universities in Florida as contributors. The goal of the FCI is to address the full range of impacts of climate variability and climate change. The FCI is a networking and information hub that fosters collaborations among leading researchers in Florida to address the many issues associated with climate variability, climate change, and sea level rise. After creating the FCI, he served as its Director until 2019, when he was replaced by another faculty member at UF.

Jones currently serves on the National Academy Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, with leaders of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and other professional societies and organizations involved food and agricultural systems issues. His work emphasizes use of convergent systems approaches to develop food and agricultural systems that are more productive, sustainable, and resilient.

Contact Information


289 Frazier Rogers Hall

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 110570
Gainesville, FL 32611-0570

Curriculum Vitae

  • Research

    Research Focus:

    • Global Crop Modeling Project: Development and application of crop and soil models for predicting cropping system responses to climate variability and climate change and evaluating mgmt. options for adapting to and mitigating climate change.
    • Southeast Climate Consortium: a NOAA Regional Integrated Science Assessment Center for the SE USA.
    • Decision Support System for Reducing Agricultural Risks Caused by Climate Variability –a USDA-NIFA project to determine climate-related risks to agricultural systems in the SE USA and develops forecasts of drought, yield, and other variables to help farmers reduce risks to climate variability.
    • Climate Risk Management and Decision Support System: USDA-RMA project emphasizing the development and implementation of a climate information and decision support system for use by the Cooperative Extension Services in the SE USA
  • Education
    • Ph.D. North Carolina State University, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, 1975
    • M.S. Mississippi State University, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, 1970
    • B.S. Texas Tech University, Department of Agricultural Engineering, 1967
  • Professional Experience
    • 2011 - Present
      Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
    • 2016 - 2019
      Program Director, National Science Foundation (NSF), Engineering Directorate, CBET Division
    • 2010 - 2019
      Director, Florida Climate Institute, A joint institute of the University of Florida and Florida State University
    • 1998 - 2011
      Distinguished Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
    • 1981 - 1998
      Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
    • 1977 - 1981
      Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
    • 1973 - 1977
      Research Engineer, USDA-ARS
      Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Mississippi State University
    • 1971 - 1973
      Research Engineer and Graduate Research Associate, USDA-ARS, North Carolina State University
    • 1967 - 1971
      Research Engineer, USDA-ARS. Mississippi State University
  • Publications
  • Awards and Honors
    • Distinguished Achievement Award, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida, 2018
    • Presidential Citation Award, 2017
    • Presidential Award, American Society of Agronomy, 2015
    • Fellow, AAAS, 2012
    • Elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), 2012
    • John Deere Gold Medal Award, 2012
    • Outstanding Alumus Award, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, 2011
    • Malone International Award, 2006
    • Fellow, Soil Science Society of America, 2006
    • Kashida International Award, 2005
    • International Fellow, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2005
    • Doctoral Advising/Mentoring, UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Florida, 2005
    • Research Foundation Professor Award, University of Florida, 2004-2007
    • Distinguished Alumni Fellow, Bagley Engineering School, Mississippi State University, 2003
    • Florida Section Member Award, ASAE, 2002
    • International Research Award, Gamma Sigma Delta - Florida Chapter, 2000
    • Fellow, American Society of Agronomy, 1999
    • Professor Excellence Program Award, University of Florida, 1997
    • OICD Fellowship, Colombia, 1993
    • Fellow, ASAE, 1990
    • OICD Fellowship, France, 1989
  • Other Professional Activities
    • National Academy of Engineering (NAE), (Interdisciplinary Engineering Section), Elected in 2012
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2009-Present), Elected Fellow Member
    • American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) (1969-Present), Elected Fellow Member
    • American Society of Agronomy (1980 – Present), Elected Fellow Member
    • Soil Science Society of America (1980 – Present), Elected Fellow Member
    • Crop Science Society of America (1980 – Present)