Crop simulation models have been used widely to describe systems and processes at the level of the genotype, the crop, the farming system, the region, and the global environment, but examples of how the use of such models has benefited poor people in developing countries are limited. There is, therefore, an urgent need to make the use of models in research more relevant to problems in the real world and to find effective means of disseminating the results from work using models to the potential beneficiaries.To achieve this, we believe that there must be a shift in the thinking of crop/soil modelers toward making people more center stage and toward a more problem-solving approach. This means researchers must think of the real problems faced by ordinary people in developing countries and construct and apply their models to contribute to solving these problems. For this to be effective, modelers need to define clearly who are the end users of their models and to enter into dialogue with these people so that the final product is tailored to their needs.
There appear to be two opposite directions in which further crop modeling research can develop. On the one hand, in response to the rapidly expanding field of genomics, links between information at the gene level and performance at the phenotype level need to be established, and methodologies to do this must be developed. Such models will have the potential to contribute to enhancing the efficiency of crop improvement programs worldwide by providing more efficient ways of identifying and evaluating desirable characteristics for specific plant breeding goals. On the other hand, crop models need to be incorporated into higher order systems such as the whole farm, catchment, or region. Some progress has already been made in linking crop growth models with other physical process models to improve our understanding of how changes in agricultural systems influence overall environmental impacts. However, the role of people in these systems also needs to be made explicit so that the day-to-day decisions that they make to sustain and improve their livelihoods and the influence these decisions have on their environment and natural resource base can be taken into account.
Advances in Agronomy (2002) 76 31-124 [DOI: 10.1016/S0065-2113(02)76003-3]