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COMPUTER PROGRAM WILL HELP FARMERS

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Two Agriculture Department researchers have invented what may be the next best thing to a crystal ball for farmers: a computer simulation for wheat crops.

Their computer program, called MODWht3, uses weather data to chart crop characteristics, predicting the daily progress of winter wheat output from planting to harvest, according to Agricultural Research magazine.It will provide insights on features ranging from crop yield to post-harvest residue. The simulation can even tell growers what their output would have been if they'd planted the crop two weeks earlier.

MODWht3 is actually a more powerful and easier-to-use version of a previous simulation, PLANTEMP, though researchers say the two are cyberworlds apart.

"It's like comparing roller skates to an automobile," said Ron Rickman, an Agricultural Research Service soil scientist, who wrote the simulation with ARS mathematician Sue Waldman.