Figuring out how a rice crop was faring used to be a head-scratching exercise with predictably unpredictable results.

But now a few punches on a keyboard can yield a pretty close forecast for a rice crop and tell a farmer what changes could improve the outcome at harvest.

The program, Rice Development Advisory, stems from extensive data collected over the years by researchers at the Texas AgriLife Research Center in Beaumont. They methodically accumulated reams of data in the course of studying and creating improved varieties of rice.

As technology improved, the researchers have been able to recrank the data into computerized programs useful to farmers in decision-making.