A Simulation Software for the Analysis of Cropping Systems in Livestock Farms

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Luca Bechini *
Andrea Di Guardo
Marco Botta
Salvatore Greco
Tommaso Maggiore
(*) Corresponding Author:
Luca Bechini | mikimos@mac.com

Abstract

Simulation models can support quantitative and integrated analyses of agricultural systems. In this paper we describe VA.TE., a computer program developed to support the preparation and evaluation of nitrogen fertilising plans for livestock farms in the Lombardy region (northern Italy). The program integrates the cropping systems simulation model CropSyst with several regional agricultural databases, and provides the users with a simple framework for applying the model and interpreting results. VA.TE. makes good use of available data, integrating into a single relational database existing information about soils, climate, farms, animal breeds, crops and crop managements, and providing estimates of missing input variables. A simulation engine manages the entire simulation process: choice of farms to be simulated, model parameterisation, creation of model inputs, simulation of scenarios and analysis of model outputs. The program permits to apply at farm scale a model originally designed for the lower scale of homogeneous land parcel. It manages alternative simulation scenarios for each farm, helping to identify solutions to combine low nitrate losses and satisfactory crop yields. Example simulation results for three farms located on different soils and having varying levels of nitrogen surplus show that the integrated system (model + database) can manage various simulations automatically, and that strategies to improve N management can be refined by analysing the simulated amounts and temporal patterns of nitrogen leaching.We conclude by discussing the issues regarding the integration of existing regional databases with simulation models.

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