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August 16, 2017: Computer Models: Getting More Out Than You Put In (Webinar)

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Participants will learn to discern true model usefulness and quality from this comprehensive overview of computer modeling within agriculture and beyond.


Models are more ubiquitous than often realized. The cliché, all models are wrong, but some are useful will be examined by considering some fundamental skills all model users should possess. These include knowing what questions the model is capable of answering (and to what precision), choosing a model no more sophisticated than necessary, weighing the effect of input data of insufficient quantity or quality, and knowing enough about what is going on in the “black box” to not misunderstand model results.

This webinar will shed light on the roles of the model developer, the user who applies the model, and the decision maker who depends upon model output. Better outcomes can be expected from a more enlightened understanding of each of these roles. The usefulness of the computer model is a direct reflection of how humans perform these roles.

The presenters will also discuss techniques of model building, output analysis, trouble-shooting, and sensitivity analysis, with comparison and contrast of some existing NRCS models, such as RSET for conservation planning, the WQIag for assessing conservation practices, WinTR-20 and HecRAS for hydraulics and hydrology, RUSLE for soil erosion, and SWAT for continuous simulation of watershed water quality parameters.

This webinar is presented by USDA NRCS Science and Technology. Contact Holli Kuykendall, Ph.D., National Technology Specialist, for more information about this webinar.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition is a state-wide and coalition-based Extension program, housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Funding was sponsored by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Award #2017-70011-26861, and the Southern Risk Management Education Center Grant #545015. For more information about the program or funding, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director and Extension Specialist, at or 540-231-5784.

For website updates, such as broken links, please contact Allyssa Mark, Program Associate.