"It's a fairly old idea," said Dr. Ted Wilson, center director. "What we are doing now is a logical extension of previous methods where information had to be entered into a computer by hand.”We do a lot of work on how crops grow and how pests develop. The problem is that if you are compiling numbers for one location, it is not too hard. But when one has several locations, it's a logistical problem to keep track."

The team of rice researchers at the Beaumont center works with rice farmers in more than 20 Texas counties and collaborate s with their counterparts in many other rice-producing countries.

Combining the collected data in a usable forma t has been the bailiwick of Dr. Yubin Yang, AgriLife Research biological systems analyst at Beaumont. He and the team of researchers have spent years building climatic and soil databases and devising programs to accurately predict rice development. He's done the same to develop other cropping system applications, such as a post-harvest grain management program and a rice water conservation analyzer.

Farmers are increasingly using the modeling software online and researchers around the world have drawn on the components pertaining to the climate, soil and weather, Yang said. He calls the databases collectively iAIMS, Integrated Agricultural Information and Management System. The entire package, including the cropping system software, can be found at http://beaumont.tamu.edu/eTools/eTools_default.htm.

"The obvious benefit would be planning for planting, irrigation, fertilizer application and harvesting," Yang said of farmer use. He and Wilson said about 300 Texas rice farmers and researchers have used the Rice Growth Development tool so far.