Mundell & Associates Staff Environmental Scientist Tyler Balson was among a group of scientists who published and presented work on performance improvement in a prominent agro-ecosystem data model (Agro-IBIS) at PEARC17 this July (Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing Conference Series).
Balson, while working at Mundell & Associates is also a Intelligent Systems Engineer PhD student at Indiana University in Bloomington. His dissertation is centered on improving processing of the Agro-IBIS data model, a tool that can be used to evaluate agricultural management decisions such as fertilization application, crop rotation, planting date, conservation practice etc. Along with these and other agricultural management practices, Agro-IBIS takes input of climate and soil data to predict outcomes of crop yield, soil health, water quality and quantity.
How does this model help solve current environmental problems?
Each year around planting time, the Mississippi River floods the gulf of Mexico with an excess of nutrients (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus) from farm land runoff. These nutrients trigger algae blooms that cut off oxygen in the water, depleting marine life or causing fish to move further out to sea. Regions such as this are termed “Dead Zones” and, along with changing a natural habitat, have a major impact on the seafood industry for several months. (There are other sources of excess nutrients, but farmland is the major contributor to this seasonal phenomenon).
While there are known agricultural practices that can limit this excess runoff, 41% of land in the United States carries nutrients to the Gulf. Therefore, it is critical to pinpoint implementation and education of best practices in certain areas that are major contributors to the excess nutrients.
Agro-IBIS data modeling could help pinpoint these areas, but currently the model is limited by the processing time it takes for even small areas such as 50 acres. With a shared codebase and limitations to completely rewriting the data model, the work of Balson and his colleagues seeks to improve performance of Agro-IBIS. with an eye toward the future of agricultural management – real time portals for farmers to know when, where, and how to manage their crops to contribute to a better ecosystem.
Read the full paper HPC Enabled Simulation of the Food-Water-Energy System
Learn more about Dead Zones