An important step toward improving model efficacy and usability is to further integrate system modeling with field research. An agricultural system involves complex interactions among several different components and factors (Figure 1). These interactions need interdisciplinary field research and quantification with the help of conceptual and process models. Integration of system models with field research has the potential to significantly enhance efficiency of agricultural research and raise agricultural science and technology to the next higher level. The integration will benefit both field research and models in the following ways:
• promote efficient and effective transfer of field research results to different soil conditions, climatic conditions, and alternative cropping and management systems outside the experimental design;
• encourage a whole-systems approach to field research that examines all major component interactions and facilitates better understanding of cause-and-effect relationships and quantification of experimental results; and
• assist field researchers to focus on identified fundamental knowledge gaps to make field research more efficient, and provide needed field evaluation and improvement of agricultural models before delivery to potential users.
A desirable vision for agricultural research and technology transfer is to have close integration between new field research, agroecosystem simulation models, and other components for integrated agroecosystem assessment (Figure 5). After an agricultural system model has undergone thorough evaluation and both modelers and field scientists are satisfied with the results, it should be
advanced to the application stage (with the goal of further model improvement through exposure to differing field conditions).
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