A new Internet-based simulation program under development at Iowa State University lets you build your own farm.
I-FARM, a database-driven farming systems simulation model, is part of a three-state, USDA-funded project designed to create farming systems in which animals and crops are raised together rather than in separate operations. The University of Maine and Michigan State University are developing other systems.
Farm modeling programs are not new, says I-FARM developer Ed van Ouwerkerk, an integrated agricultural systems specialist in Iowa State’s agricultural and biosystems engineering department who’s working with the Iowa group.
The model has weather and soils data for 12 Midwestern states, along with data for a range of crops and crop rotations, as well as associated practices such as tillage, fertilization, planting, weed control, harvesting and residue removal. Cattle and swine production is modeled based on feed intake, growth rate, grazing or confinement operations, and manure-management systems. Users can select options that fit their farm or interests.
Detailed information about soil erosion, the farm’s energy and labor requirements, what’s produced in terms of crops, livestock, manure to be used as fertilizer and residue that could be harvested for its biomass can be shown through the simulation. I-FARM results also can be used in other models related to water or air quality.
Up to 20 people can simultaneously use I-FARM software, which runs from a Web site. To access I-FARM, go to http://evo.ae.iastate.edu