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Helping Agriculturalists One Research Project at a Time

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

STILLWATER, Okla. – Growing up in an Air Force family, Dr. Phillip Alderman lived in multiple places, but since July 2015, Alderman lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma.


Alderman joined forces with Oklahoma State University as an assistant professor focused on agricultural systems modeling. Alderman has research and teaching responsibilities and spends the largest portion of his time expanding research in agricultural system models.


“Agricultural systems modeling is relatively new to OSU,” Alderman said. “The position I came into was created to support the department's interest in expanding into this area.”


Agricultural systems science generates knowledge that allows researchers to consider complex problems or make informed agricultural decisions. Modeling is an essential tool in agricultural systems science, accomplished by scientists from a wide range of disciplines, who have contributed concepts and tools over more than six decades.


“The opportunity to take a leading role within this region to make contributions to the agriculture industry was something I could not resist,” Alderman said.


Alderman’s research frequently utilizes data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, which is a world-class system of environmental monitoring stations located in Norman, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Mesonet was designed by scientists from OSU and the University of Oklahoma that helps with agricultural production throughout the state.


“The Oklahoma Mesonet is unparalleled,” Alderman said. “There is nowhere else in the world that has the same quality of measurements at the same scale, with the same kind of resolution.”


With the technological abilities of the Oklahoma Mesonet, Alderman is able to help translate the information needed for agricultural production systems.


“With such incredible resources available to the state,” Alderman explained, “it is a great opportunity to bring the skills I have from the agricultural modeling realm to leverage the data from the Mesonet and turn it into practical information producers can use.”


Prior to his journey here at OSU, Alderman was conducting wheat research for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT) near Mexico City.


“Wheat is a fascinating crop and Oklahoma is a fascinating place to study it,” Alderman said. “It’s grown across wide regions of the world, yet there aren't many regions where wheat is used as a dual-purpose crop.”


In Oklahoma, wheat is grown as a dual-purpose crop – to graze livestock as well as a grain source.


“If you’re grazing it, you don't want to overgraze it,” Alderman explained. “It has practical implications, but just from a standpoint of trying to understand what the resource allocations within the plant are, how do you make sure that the amount that you graze it is not too much, what's the timing of those different things.”


Alderman has plans to further pursue research in seasonal crop forecasting.


“I’m very interested in seasonal crop forecasting,” Alderman said. “It relates to the work we are doing now because one of the things is being able to predict how different varieties are going to grow in different locations within a given season.”


“Many times, the ideal variety for a given location depends on what the weather is going to be and obviously there are many challenges associated with knowing that in advance,” Alderman said.


Agriculturalists who decide which crop variety to plant for the next growing season, at the end of the current growing season, may find weather challenges they did not think about when determining which crop varieties to plant, Alderman said.


“You have to decide what variety to plant before the season starts,” Alderman explained. “With crop forecasting we want to support producers making those decisions by providing our best estimates of likely yields specific to their locations.”


Editor: Molly Faught, Oklahoma State University Agricultural Communications Writing Center


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