Computer program helps farmers make decisions about pastureland

03/15/05

Blacksburg, Va. – A team in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is leading the development of the Pastureland Management System (PLMS), a free, practical, and portable computer-based aid program that helps livestock farmers compare different strategies for managing their land and livestock.

The system's goal is to seasonally balance forage produced on the farm and forage needed by livestock.

John Galbraith, assistant professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, said, "Unlike the real-world experience, when trying the computer model, the farmer is not forced to invest anything more than a few minutes of time to test the potential improvements to be gained from rotational grazing."

Using PLMS, a farmer can explore using intensive grazing, manipulating stocking rates, and modifying forage species to improve productivity and profit, while also benefiting the environment.

PLMS provides nearly instant feedback on how user-generated alternative grazing systems affect such critical variables as farm profit, milk production, and pounds of beef to market. It also estimates the environmental consequences of alternative plans from effects on soil erosion to influences on greenhouse-gas emissions.

A multidisciplinary team, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), ISIS Labs, LLC, and Virginia Tech, is developing PLMS.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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