23 November 2001

Software more farmer-friendly

FED up with endless talk of so-called decision-support software to help you manage crop protection inputs? So are most farmers and consultants, it seems.

Poor uptake is no surprise, said Glasgow Caledonian Universitys Caroline Parker, who has researched grower views of such software. "Systems overlook the needs of end users, being driven by the agenda of scientists instead."

Poor design, slow operating speeds, wrongly targeted information and an inability to accept data from field recording systems are common. Failure to consider farmer workloads, control costs, grower pride and environmental issues are also to blame, she said.

Now her team at Glasgow has come up with a user-centered approach, which is being evaluated in weed management decision support software being developed with joint industry/government funding of £1.2m.

Started in 2000, it aims to give growers software that really will help combat weeds. Underpinning its design is a series of test sessions, involving farmers and advisers.

The key messages to emerge already are that users want anecdotal information as well as trial data, the ability to run what-if scenarios for different management regimes and indications of the impact of seed returns.

Creating CD software which can be updated from the internet is now the goal. It could be run under the DESSAC decision-support operating system and should be commercialised after 2004. &#42