Farmers use intuition to reinvent analytic decision support for managing seasonal climatic variability

McCown, R. L., Carberry, P. S., Dalgliesh, N. P., Foale, M. A. and Hochman, Z. (2012) Farmers use intuition to reinvent analytic decision support for managing seasonal climatic variability. Agricultural Systems, 106 1: 33-45. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2011.10.005

Author McCown, R. L.
Carberry, P. S.
Dalgliesh, N. P.
Foale, M. A.
Hochman, Z.
Title Farmers use intuition to reinvent analytic decision support for managing seasonal climatic variability
Journal name Agricultural Systems   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0308-521X
Publication date 2012-02
Year available 2011
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.agsy.2011.10.005
Volume 106
Issue 1
Start page 33
End page 45
Total pages 13
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The FARMSCAPE Information System emerged in a long-running research program aimed at making simulation models useful to Australian farmers in managing climatic variability. This paper is about how well it has worked. This is reported in relation to two standards: (1) the value to thinking and action expressed by farmers and their consultants, (2) correspondence with theory about learning and judgement in uncertain external environments. The former utilises recorded narrative interviews with participants over many years. The latter uses a cognitive framework drawn from theory of judgment and decision making featuring the relationship between intuition and analysis (McCown, 2011).

The cognitive theory framework makes sense of several evaluation surprises. The first was high enthusiasm by largely-intuitive farmers for an analytic approach to soil water in conjunction with a newly-appreciated “bucket” metaphor for water balance. The second surprise was the virtual absence of soil water measurement 10 years later. This had been replaced by various intuitive estimates, calibrated to maintain a heuristic relationship with regard to the “bucket” as a resource.

Farmers and their advisers were facilitated in using simulation for thought experiments and planning under climatic uncertainty. Benchmarking enabled problem solving in documented conditions. Scenario analysis using historical climate records supported thought experiments by providing probability distributions that were valued for shaping expectations as a “history of the future”. In retrospective evaluation interviews, researchers were surprised to find that yield forecasting and tactical decision making, anticipated to be analyses that were both site- and season-specific forecasts, had served farmers as “management gaming” simulations to aid formulating action rules for such conditions, thus reducing the need for an on-going decision-aiding service. Equipped with their soil monitoring techniques and with their heuristic rules, farmers still reserved a place for simulation “when you’ve got a planting situation out of the ordinary.”
Keyword Decision support
Information system
Cognitive system
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online 29 November 2011

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2012 Collection
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 13 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 09 Apr 2012, 12:10:39 EST by System User on behalf of School of Agriculture and Food Sciences