CropOptimiser is a climate-based decision support tool for optimising regional cropping choice and patterns for different seasonal, climatic, agronomic and social conditions. It has been developed as part of the ACIAR funded project, Seasonal climate forecasting for better irrigation system management in Lombok (SMCN/2002/033), which aims to improve agricultural decision-making in Lombok, Indonesia. It is designed as a simple to use, stand–alone software product, incorporating a Linear Programming (LP) optimizing model, for use by regional managers and advisors of both irrigation and rainfed agricultural systems.
The need for such a tool was recognized during the developmental stages of the project. Agricultural production in Lombok is predominantly (and socially) rice-based and is largely influenced by high climate variability that, in part, is associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. This variability requires decisions to be made ahead of the growing season as to what crops to plant, how much to plant, and when to plant. Water availability is one of the key issues influencing these decisions, so the ability to forecast this for the coming season is highly beneficial for local farmers. However, the nature and management of the risk associated with these forecasts is complex and generally poorly understood at the farm level. This is especially true in developing communities like Lombok where education levels are low, communication mediums are limited, and agricultural decision-making is influenced by cultural and social practices. In these situations, regional-level planning can potentially better capture climate activity to ensure optimum yield and price of crops, through dissemination of advice back through government officials and community leaders to the farm level.
At this regional level, strategists can geographically optimize cropping choice and area based on the likelihood of available water from climate forecasts to maximize yield and protect market value. This ensures crop survival and avoids overproduction of particular crop varieties, which could affect the market price and demand, while adhering to social conventions for staple foods.
Practitioners at this level are able to take advantage of computer software to formulate their strategies. However, before this research, no off-the-shelf software products were available to specifically address these problems. Therefore CropOptimiser was developed for this need, and to simplify the process as much as possible.