One of the great challenges of our time is to safeguard the supply of water for food production. This is generally done through farm management practices and technologies that cut across several areas of study. Thus, research teams often integrate existing models from several of these fields to develop a more comprehensive model. However, these models quickly become very complex.
In a new paper published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, researchers use perspectives of non-modelers and stakeholders to develop a decision tree to help scientists determine whether integrated modeling is the most appropriate approach to a problem. Erin Haacker, Nebraska Water Center research associate, and her colleagues from the USDA-funded Ogallala Water Coordinated Agricultural Project, note the drawbacks of integrated modeling, which can include: the time needed to integrate the models; technical challenges from models being written in different computer languages; the length of time needed for a computer to run the large amounts of data; and their ability to cover scale. However, there are positives, too – integrated modeling can allow testing of far-flung effects among processes and do a better job at telling the whole story of agricultural water management than single models that only take a few processes into account.
By reviewing pros and cons of both integrated and single models, researchers found that integrated modeling can be useful, but must be put into context using field studies and working with stakeholders to include cutting-edge management techniques.