Factors cost effectively improved using computer simulations of maize yields in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa
Achieving food security is a challenge for the developed and developing world. These challenges are greater for developing nations such as in Africa because of the severity of the problems. An important aspect of this is poor agricultural productivity. Worldwide, technology is being developed to increase agricultural production. One aspect of this is the development of predictive computer models that enable farmers to optimise crops using management decision based on simulation scenarios. Most African farmers do not have the computer resources or expertise to implement these types of technology. Even extension offices in Africa, who provide much needed advice, can be under resourced in this way. We suggest here that simpler computer models that are cheaper and easier to use need to be developed. As a first step in this process we investigate here which factors are most cost effectively managed using computer simulations in semi-arid conditions pertinent to much of sub-Saharan Africa. Factors known to be important in crop farming are planting date, sowing density, variety, weeding, soils and fertiliser. We use qualitative arguments with simulations and conclude that interactions between rainfall, soil condition and fertiliser can benefit from simulations and thus should help in their management.