AgMIP6 Group Photo
The workshop began with a welcome from AgMIP Steering Council Co-Chair Jean-François Soussana and Montpellier partners Bernard Hubert (Agropolis International), Alain Vidal (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), Patrick Caron (CIRAD – The French agricultural research and international cooperation organization), and François Houllier (French National Institute for Agricultural Research).
Mark Rosegrant (left) kicked off the CGRA session facilitated by Cynthia Rosenzweig (right).
Hanna Tuomisto, one of the scientists presenting in the parallel session on Nutrition and Food Security, part of a new initiative that incorporates nutrition and health into climate change assessments.
From left to right panelists Francisco Meza (Centro de Cambio Global UC), Wei Xiong (University of Florida), and Boubacar Barry (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use) gave their thoughts on stakeholder interactions from the perspective of Chile, China, and West Africa respectively. Keynote Amy Sullivan (far right). Session facilitated by John Antle [Presentations here]
The first day of the workshop ended with a poster session and reception where authors and attendees discussed research findings. (Poster abstracts listed by topic here)
By Shari Lifson
At first glance, the group arriving at The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) Global Workshop at Le Corum in Montpellier, France seemed like any of the other similar gatherings held throughout the year in this large convention hall. Participants greeted each other and milled around the registration area before heading to the auditorium for the beginning of the three-day workshop. But a closer look at the topics outlined in the program revealed the critical nature of the research to be discussed. The theme, “Seeking Sustainable Agricultural Solutions” underscored the issue; the future of our food systems is facing some serious challenges.
A growing number of scientists, national agencies, policymakers, and farmers are concerned that the combination of a warming Earth and an expanding population is expected to strain future food systems. Food security, defined as the availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life, now and going forward, could be at risk in many places in the world. In order to prepare for this uncertain future, scientists are undertaking research that models all aspects of food systems, from farming practices and seeds, to economics, climate shocks, and nutrition, to comprehend how to sustainably adapt to the coming changes.
AgMIP has been developing this interdisciplinary research, or integrated assessments, of agricultural systems since 2010. Led out of Columbia University, the University of Florida, and Oregon State University, with major funding from UK Aid, AgMIP is comprised of an international community of scientists and stakeholders. The community, motivated by a desire to improve the state of food security research and then translate that into effective policy, periodically comes together at AgMIP Global Workshops to share new protocols, research results and plans for future collaborations.
The sixth of these AgMIP Global Workshops (AgMIP6) was held in Montpellier, France, June 28-30, 2016 where 220 participants from 39 countries and five continents attended. The participants represented not only a wide range of national interests, but also a diversity of fields including climate, crop, and economic modelers, as well as experts in nutrition and stakeholder engagement. Sessions were organized around three guiding themes: Next Generation Knowledge, Data, and Tools; Coordinated Global and Regional Integrated Assessments; and Modeling for Sustainable Farming Systems. Each of these themes represents one aspect of AgMIP research that enables the community as a whole to improve the assessments and bring them to the next level.
After an opening session with the local hosts and an overview by Cynthia Rosenzweig, AgMIP Co-PI, the workshop began with a keynote and panel about Coordinated Global and Regional Integrated Assessments (CGRA). CGRA is an initiative that melds together differing disciplines and scales for a more consistent and complete assessment of food security. Mark Rosegrant, Director of the Environment and Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington D.C, began the session by presenting an overview of the CGRA project goals, research questions, framework, stakeholders, and challenges. Panelists Jessica Fanzo (Johns Hopkins), Mario Herrero (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Hermann Lotze-Campen (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research), and Senthold Asseng (University of Florida) then presented about CGRA from the standpoint of nutrition, livestock modeling, global economics, and crop modeling, respectively. (Presentations here)
Rosegrant commented after the session, “The AgMIP6 workshop has gotten off to a great start with an excellent introduction to CGRA, the new Coordinated Global and Regional Assessments, that will be one of the really big things going forward in AgMIP. I think these assessments will allow us a better understanding of the links between climate, food security, food policy, and nutrition security than we’ve seen in any other comprehensive assessments.”
Following this plenary, participants attended themed parallel presentations. The parallel sessions were a new addition to AgMIP6 from previous workshops, and were held between plenaries on the first and second day. These sessions consisted of a series of oral presentations of selected abstracts. The range of topics reflected the variety of participants’ interests and included Seasonal Forecasts and Climate Extremes, Crop Model Improvement, Stakeholders and Decision Support, Remote Sensing, Land-Use and Scaling, Nutrition and Food Security, and Information Technologies and Data. See the program for a complete list of topics and access the abstracts and presentations for all the parallel sessions.
Alex Ruane, AgMIP Science Coordinator, said of the new parallel sessions, “For the first time, AgMIP6 included parallel presentation sessions that highlighted innovative research and cutting edge applications in agricultural modeling. These sessions demonstrate the tremendous successes of AgMIP’s 30+ activities and catalyzed the identification of new ideas for future model development and decision support for a spectrum of stakeholders.”
In the afternoon, plenary keynote speaker Amy Sullivan, co-leader of the AgMIP Stakeholder Unit, presented undertaking co-developed research with stakeholders. Co-developed research involves actively seeking new and different ways of conducting research that includes stakeholders with the goal of better informing decision-making. She stressed the importance of improving the process of connecting scientific results to impactful decision-makers because, as Sullivan put it, “The stakes are really high. The world needs actionable science around climate change, and it needs it now.” The benefits for the scientists of this approach include new audiences, a higher profile, improved fund raising, and development of a trusted network. The process, she added, will turn stakeholders into partners, but will require skills beyond the science.
Keynote speaker Patricia Masikati started day two at the Modeling for Sustainable Farming Systems session. Panelists Marc Corbeels (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) commented on modeling low input farming systems, Rob Vos (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) spoke on the meaning of farming systems and sustainability, Marco Springmann (University of Oxford) discussed inclusion of nutrition and health into the assessments and Myriam Adam (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) presented the benefits of context interaction modeling techniques. (Presentations here)
Marc Corbeels spoke about his research into low input farming systems during the Modeling for Sustainable Farming Systems session facilitated by Peter Craufurd (right).
The Next Generation Tools and Open Data Session featured Keynote Molly Jahn (above), Medha Devare (Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers) on open, harmonized, interoperable data, Sibiry Traore (below) (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) remote sensing in Africa, Bruno Basso (Michigan State University) high resolution imagery of farms, Joshua Elliott (University of Chicago) open data initiatives and cloud computing, and Susan Capalbo (Oregon State University) farm level decision support platforms. Stan Wood (Gates Foundation) facilitated the session. (Presentations here)
Participants planning during the Data, Decision Support Systems and IT breakout session
From left to right – James Jones, Ghassem Asrar, John Antle, Jean-Francois Soussana, and Cynthia Rosenzweig.
The morning of June 29 began with a keynote and panel discussion of Modeling for Sustainable Farming Systems. This AgMIP theme focuses on developing protocol-based modeling to test adaptations of interest to stakeholders that enable climate smart investments. Patricia Masikati, Agroforestry Systems Scientist at World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) based in Southern Africa and crop modeler for the AgMIP South-Eastern Africa team, delivered a keynote address about her experiences modeling Zimbabwe farms. African farming systems are complex, diverse, and difficult to model, she explained, and face many challenges including investment capacity, degraded lands, limited area for expansion, and climate risks. Some technologies show promise but it is uncertain how to bring those solutions to a greater number of farms. “Models assist in integrating the different components of the system to help understand both in the short and long term,” Masikati stated. (Presentations here)
The second plenary of the morning featured the AgMIP theme, Next Generation Tools and Open Data. Molly Jahn, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, began the session with a keynote address that explored some of the choices AgMIP should consider in the new world of NextGen Ag Knowledge Systems. This next gen world, Jahn stated, includes new sources of data such as social media and crowd sourcing, automated model/data workflows, open data and code, and model development driven by stakeholder needs. Jahn asked, what is AgMIP’s place in this new world and how will its current workflows and models be relevant? Jahn concluded, “Agriculture is the dominant way we care for the planet today, and our choices in agriculture have a profound influence on the condition of our species and the planet.” (Presentations here)
In the afternoon a panel discussion on multi-national collaborations was held, moderated by Jean-François Soussana (French National Institute for Agricultural Research, AgMIP Steering Council Co-Chair). Soussana described the plenary as, “A new type of session, not just about AgMIP but also with multiple initiatives working on climate change and agriculture.” The goal of the session was to, “See how we could make progress by linking across initiatives and across global and regional scales,” he explained. Each of the six panelists was asked the question, “How do you see links between AgMIP and your organization?”
Harry Clark (Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases) initiated the discussion by answering that his organization is planning on contributing to the IPCC special report on 1.5 °C and AgMIP modeling could help inform those contributions with tools to measure mitigation potentials.
Alain Vidal (Research program on Agriculture and Food Security) commented, “Working in the countries where we can make change happen, if we want a better connection between agriculture and climate, if we want to make and help develop agriculture that is adapted to climate change while ensuring food security, and at the same time reducing agricultural emissions, this AgMIP can do.”
Panelists Heather Mckhann (The Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change), Terry Nipp (Agricultural & Environmental Geographic Information Systems), Claire Weill (Future Earth), and Pan Pan (Climate-KIC) also commented on how their organizations and AgMIP could benefit from joint initiatives including investigating private sector partnerships to develop tools and products.
The final day of the workshop began with observations and recommendations in planning from AgMIP Steering Council Co-Chairs Jean-Francois Soussana and Ghassem Asrar and a panel discussion with AgMIP PIs Cynthia Rosenzweig, James Jones, and John Antle.
Cynthia Rosenzweig summed up her impressions of the workshop; “We thank our French colleagues at AGROPOLIS, CIRAD, and INRA for co-hosting AgMIP6, the annual gathering of agricultural modelers from around the world. It was thrilling to experience the lively interactions among the participants from the wide spectrum of topics, including ozone, data harmonization, calibration, and coordinated global and regional assessments. A special thank you to the nutrition scientists who are teaming with AgMIP to create models and metrics for food and global health.”
Following this discussion, participants engaged in two types of breakout sessions. The morning focused on regional breakout groups, while the afternoon focused on working groups by disciplines. Regional groups considered the question, “How can AgMIP help new countries?” Discipline and working groups planned future collaborations and research goals. (See workshop program.)
Ghassem Asrar, AgMIP Steering Council Co-Chair, commented on the workshop, “I congratulate the entire AgMIP team for another very successful annual meeting. A combination of plenary presentations and breakout discussions convey the breadth and depth of AgMIP scientific contributions and impact, both at regional and global level. It is remarkable that all of this is accomplished through a community of volunteers who benefit greatly from being a part of the AgMIP team.”
As the AgMIP community left the workshop in Montpellier they had plans in hand to forge ahead in their research. The workshop had been successful in its aim to bring this community together and propel the research forward. They understood that the global food system impacts every person on this planet and accurate planning information is urgently needed today to ensure it continues to deliver nutrition to us all now and into the future.