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Developing database and knowledge-based resources for commercial advisers using the cropping systems simulator APSIM

Hochman, Z. Dr; ph: (07) 4688 1200; fax: (07) 4688 1193;

Research organisation: CSIRO Tropical Agriculture/APSRU, PO Box 102, Toowoomba Qld 4350.

Sponsor: GRDC, Grains Research and Development Corporation


  • To develop soil, weather, and crop databases that will enable farm advisers to access data that are necessary for specifying an APSIM simulation.
  • To support advisers in becoming proficient users of APSIM by providing a knowledge-based system that will assist advisers minimise error when specifying variables for which they do not have measured data.


Monitoring of soil resources and simulation of relevant management scenarios are highly valued by an increasing number of farmers and advisers in the Northern Region. Amongst a significant sector of the farming community there now exists a market for timely and high quality interactions based on the FARMSCAPE (Farmers, Advisers, Researchers, Monitoring, Simulation, Communication and Performance Evaluation) approach to delivering these technologies. However, farmers and advisers require that simulations be customized to individual farms or paddocks and that results meet a high standard of accuracy.

The high demands of training and support required for APSIM is a constraint to the capacity of the advising industry to become competent APSIM users. A major problem is the lack of expertise in correctly specifying input values for soil and crop files and in accessing the relevant weather and soil characterization files that are available to researchers within APSRU. This project will develop, in consultation with the advising industry, tools and resources to overcome these constraints to the use of APSIM.

The following steps will be undertaken during the course of this project:

1. Database requirements specified;

2. Knowledge base requirements specified;

3. Database system implemented;

4. Knowledge based system implemented in both electronic and paper based forms.;

5. Database and knowledge based systems evaluated by IAMA and MCA advisers.


A number of resources are being developed for supporting novice and infrequent users of the agricultural production systems simulator APSIM. These include:

  • Soil and Weather databases located on the FARMSCAPE web page
  • APSOIL - a software database tool for calculating storing and graphing soil data that is required for APSIM runs.
  • Rotation templates - software support for specifying crop rotations and their management.
  • Output templates - Excel templates for presenting outputs of specific simulation runs. Particularly ones involving SOI phases and comparisons of alternative rotations.

A group of three agronomists representing agribusiness and three APSRU researchers participated in an evaluation workshop to evaluate the resources under development. The workshop confirmed and refined the activities taken thus far and made constructive suggestions on additional action that needs to be taken. The research team is now focusing its efforts on implementing the actions that flow from this evaluation workshop.

Period: starting date 1998-07; completion date 1999-06

Status: ongoing

Keywords: crop management; simulation models; database; knowledge-based systems

Publications: None as yet


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