Virtual crops

first_imgBy Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaIt will never be as popular as Grand Theft Auto or The Sims. Butamong the world’s agricultural scientists, increasing numbers arerequesting the latest version of DSSAT software.DSSAT is Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer, acrop-modeling computer program. It was created by researchersfrom the universities of Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Guelph andMississippi State and the International Center for Soil Fertilityand Agricultural Development. International usersMore than 1,500 registered users from 90 countries now use thesoftware. The program lets them model an entire crop cycle, fromplanting to harvesting, in just seconds. It simulates a crop’sgrowth, yield, water and nutrient requirements and theenvironment’s impact on production.About 50 international researchers and graduate students met onthe UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., May 15-24 for a DSSAT softwaretraining session. The program’s developers say it’s popular, inpart, because it lets scientists “grow” crops on their computerscreens without breaking a sweat.”Computer models can provide an easy and very fast comparison ofmany different crop management scenarios and the interaction withlocal weather and soil conditions,” said Gerrit Hoogenboom. ADSSAT developer, he’s an agricultural engineer with the UGACollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Uses keep growing”It’s been used in Arkansas to help with early-season soybeanplantings, in Kentucky for determining planting dates, in Georgiafor predicting agricultural water usage, in West Africa todiagnose yield loss of peanut crops from disease and in SouthAfrica for predicting corn yields. The list of applications isnever-ending.”To further extend the software’s features, DSSAT users sharetheir uses and results via a computer discussion list and Website.”In this way, the software contributes to the whole scientificcommunity,” Hoogenboom said. Easy to understand”The way the software presents the data is an essential part ofthe success of DSSAT,” said Ken Boote, a DSSAT developer andUniversity of Florida agronomist. “You can’t give numbers that noone can understand. Our program calculates crop growth anddevelopment in a mathematical sense and then presents it throughgraphics so users can easily understand the predictions.”Boote says the developers’ goal is to educate all audiences.”One of our goals is to educate the people who talk to farmersdirectly,” Boote said. “Consultants, ag industry representativesand extension agents have the potential to spread the word tofarmers. Those farmers with interest in this technology wouldalso benefit from actually using the software themselves.”Besides simulating a crop cycle, DSSAT has been used to identifythe source of production management problems after a crop hasbeen harvested.”It’s a way to see the whole picture and what is limiting thecrop,” Boote said. “The software works nicely this way todetermine whether water or nitrogen are limiting factors. A variety of cropsDSSAT software simulates the growth of crops like peanuts,sunflowers, sugarcane, wheat, soybeans, rice, tomatoes, sorghum,millet, barley, potatoes, corn, black-eyed peas and dry beans.The latest version of DSSAT is particularly popular withresearchers in the Southeastern United States, as it allows usersto simulate cotton growth. Several participants in the recenttraining want to develop models for crops like sweet potato andsugarcane.”This software program is by no means meant to be a substitutefor actual experimentation,” Hoogenboom said. “The softwareresults are not ultimate truths. And they’re not meant to replacereal experiments, real data or critical thinking. They’re morelike hypotheses. Anytime you use a computer model you shouldquestion the results.”The software was created by and for agricultural scientists. Butthe developers say it can be easily used and understood byfarmers and those with no science background. Several Web-basedtools are being developed for many on-farm applications of DSSAT.last_img read more

IOM says poor communication hurt CDC smallpox efforts

first_img Asserting that the program succeeded in preparing the nation for smallpox and other public health emergencies, she said, “So far in response to the policy, each state has a smallpox response plan in place and laboratory capabilities to respond have been greatly enhanced. . . . In addition, millions of clinicians have received education packages to help them distinguish between smallpox and other pox viruses.” She said the ability to communicate about a threat has also been greatly improved. Roebuck also commented that the states are holding smallpox vaccine doses that they ordered but haven’t used. The states ordered a total of more than 291,000 doses, he said, which means roughly 250,000 doses haven’t been used yet. In the case of an outbreak, having vaccine on hand “could be very beneficial to a particular location prior to when federal relief would come,” he said. Further, when the program fell short of initial expectations, the CDC didn’t clarify or revise the goals, the IOM contends. “For example, if it was important to vaccinate specific numbers rapidly, what was the effect of the low vaccinee numbers on readiness for a release of smallpox virus? This question went unanswered . . ..” Ehresmann added, “This smallpox vaccination program was really the beginning of the more formal efforts the department has made for emergency preparedness at an all-hazards level. . . . I think the department is in a much better position that it was in December 2002. Not to say that we’re in preparedness nirvana.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) never fully explained the reasons for the vaccination program to the public health and healthcare workers at whom it was directed, and the result was poor participation, says the report by an IOM committee of experts. However, few health workers volunteered for the shots, in part because the government initially offered no plan to compensate them if they suffered serious adverse reactions. By the end of January 2005, only 39,608 civilian health workers had been vaccinated, according to data on the CDC Web site. By contrast, the mandatory military vaccinations proceeded rapidly; more than 760,000 troops have received shots since December 2002, according to the Department of Defense. President Bush announced the plan to vaccinate military personnel and frontline civilian health workers in December 2002, and the civilian vaccination effort began in January 2003. The original plan was to vaccinate roughly 450,000 health workers in the first stage and several million additional healthcare workers and emergency responders later. At the time, the CDC urged states to complete the initial phase of civilian vaccinations in as little as 30 days. Naturally occurring smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, but disease and security experts have been worried for years that stocks of the virus might have fallen into the hands of terrorists. Thus the IOM report says the vaccination program was “the result of an extraordinary policy decision: to vaccinate people against a disease that does not exist with a vaccine that poses some well-known risks.” See also: As a result, “Skepticism among key constituencies was followed by lack of buy-in. Despite their expressed willingness to strengthen preparedness for bioterrorism in general, and their desire to serve their communities, many public health and health care workers were ultimately unwilling to accept the well-known risks of smallpox vaccine in the context of limited information about the risk of smallpox.” The heart of the IOM’s critique is that the CDC didn’t explain the vaccination program adequately to the people who were called upon to be vaccinated. The national security assessment underlying the plan was not divulged, “and the public health reasoning behind the smallpox vaccination policy and program was never fully explained,” the report summary states. One example of this was that the CDC gave only a “vague” explanation of why the official vaccination policy differed from what was recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Kris Ehresmann, who served as smallpox vaccination officer for the Minnesota Department of Health, agreed that the messages used by the CDC in the program engendered skepticism but said the program did yield important benefits. She is the Minnesota Department of Health section chief for immunizations, tuberculosis, and international health. CDC spokesman Von Roebuck acknowledged that the CDC has not come up with a set of specific measures to define smallpox preparedness but said the agency is working toward them. He said the next round of agreements with states, whereby states submit preparedness plans and receive CDC funds, will include more specifics on what preparedness means. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding defended her agency in a statement issued last week. “CDC disagrees with the assertion that in any way its valued scientific voice was constrained in the smallpox program,” she said. The policy “was based on the best scientific advice of the CDC and other recognized scientific experts,” as well as state and local officials, she added.center_img Further, the report says the nation’s level of preparedness for a smallpox outbreak remains unclear because the CDC has not spelled out what constitutes smallpox preparedness. The IOM’s key recommendation is that the CDC define preparedness and set goals based on that definition. She said the CDC failed to provide clear reasons why vaccination was important and simultaneously stressed that the vaccine was a live-virus vaccine that entailed some risk. “Those two things worked together to really reduce the number of people who received vaccine,” she told CIDRAP News. “You’re not really telling people why you should do it [get the shot], and then you give every reason in the world why you shouldn’t do it.” She said it wasn’t wrong to provide information about the risk, but in the absence of a clear rationale for vaccination, “the result is going to be fewer people vaccinated.” Part of the IOM critique is that the CDC’s communications about the program “seemed constrained by unknown external influences.” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding has flatly rejected that assertion and said the program has achieved major improvements in smallpox preparedness. Before the civilian vaccination program began, the CDC asked the IOM to assemble an expert committee to advise the agency on how to run the program. In response, the IOM committee, chaired by Brian Strom, MD, MPH, head of the epidemiology department at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, issued six brief reports over 19 months. The latest report adds four new chapters to the previous reports. Nonetheless, she said, “There were a number of benefits to Minnesota because of the program. Probably the lowest benefit was vaccinating people. The largest was the partnerships that were established between public health and hospital and healthcare providers, between state and local public health [agencies] working on crisis situations where we needed to accomplish the impossible in a short time.” Part of the problem, the summary goes on to say, was that “The typically open and transparent communication from CDC . . . seemed constrained by unknown external influences.” In a statement he made when introducing the report, Strom said, “It . . . became apparent that security-related constraints were placed on CDC’s ability to communicate with key constituencies.” In Minnesota, about 1,500 health workers received smallpox shots, according to the CDC. Ehresmann said the state is not giving any vaccinations now. “I don’t really have measures to give you at this point, but those will be forthcoming in the next cooperative agreements, which will be later this year,” he said. “Finally,” the report states, “the committee found that the program’s outcomes (for example, the status of smallpox preparedness in each jurisdiction and nationally) are unknown because there has been no systematic assessment of smallpox preparedness, no review of administrative lessons learned, and no accounting of what has been done with the opportunities for scientific research.” Mar 11, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Poor policy communication and a lack of clearly defined goals seriously hindered the smallpox preparedness program that the federal government launched in 2003, according to a report released by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) last week. Report table of contents pagehttp://www.nap.edu/books/0309095921/html/last_img read more

Trump says to accept nomination at White House as Dems make case for Biden

first_img“I thought it was a very divisive speech, extremely divisive,” Trump told reporters at the White House.In her pre-taped remarks to the convention — which has gone almost entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic — Obama urged Americans to rally behind Biden, her husband’s former vice president, in the November 3 presidential election.Trump’s White House is marred by “chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy,” Barack Obama’s wife said in unprecedented criticism of a sitting US president by a former first lady.”Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she added. “He is clearly in over his head.”Later Tuesday on a visit to battleground state Arizona, Trump knocked Obama for delivering taped remarks.”Thursday night I’m doing it live,” Trump said, referring to his speech next week when he formally accepts his party’s nomination at the Republican convention, which has also shifted online.Trump said he has chosen the White House South Lawn as the location, after saying in recent weeks that he would pick between the presidential mansion and the historic battlefield at Gettysburg. Delivering such an obviously political speech from the White House will stir substantial controversy, as presidents are required to separate their campaigning from taxpayer-funded governing. “At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos,” Clinton said in speech excerpts released by convention organizers.”Just one thing never changes — his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame,” Clinton said. “The buck never stops there.”Democrats are gathering virtually over four days to formally nominate Biden and showcase why their candidate should replace Trump.The president faced a barrage of criticism on opening night, most notably from former first lady Michelle Obama who said Trump lacks the character and skills for the job. US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he would accept his party’s re-election nomination from the White House next week, as his Democratic opponents intensified their attacks on his chaotic presidency and touted Joe Biden as the must-elect replacement.Trump made the revelation as the Democratic National Convention gathered for its second day, with two ex-presidents preparing to unleash their own arguments against the White House incumbent.The lineup features Jimmy Carter, who served one term from 1977, and 1990s commander-in-chief Bill Clinton, who will say the Trump White House is swirling with chaos instead of the competence necessary to address the nation’s crises. Loyal top supporter In addition to Clinton and Carter, Tuesday’s lineup will feature Jill Biden, who has been married to the candidate since 1977.The educator from Pennsylvania, who served eight years as second lady, has campaigned at length for Biden, repeatedly speaking of his values and commitment to everyday Americans. The educator from Pennsylvania will deliver a personal, high-stakes prime-time testimonial about her husband, including how the personal tragedy of the death of his first wife and daughter in a 1972 car crash has shaped him. “How do you make a broken family whole?” she will say. “The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding — and with small acts of compassion. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”The camp is promoting Joe Biden as a unifier. In their appeal to middle-of-the-road voters and frustrated Republicans the convention will feature a video of the unlikely friendship between Biden and late Republican senator John McCain, narrated by his widow Cindy McCain.Republican former secretary of state Colin Powell is also reportedly set to deliver videotaped remarks in which he endorses Biden.But the convention is also about unifying Democratic factions, and to that end New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star in the progressive wing of the party, is speaking.The convention on Tuesday will holds the formal vote by more than 3,900 delegates from 50 states and seven territories who choose the party’s nominee.Biden clinched that race in early June when he secured the majority 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination. Former president Obama will speak on Wednesday along with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.The convention culminates on Thursday when the 77-year-old Biden formally accepts the Democratic nomination and delivers his acceptance speech.US presidential nominating conventions are traditionally raucous affairs featuring rousing speeches, balloons and confetti and thousands of delegates from around the country.But the Democratic gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and next week’s Republican event in North Carolina have been forced to go almost entirely online because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Topics :last_img read more

Donovan Mitchell helped out at crash site before Game 4 heroics in Jazz-Rockets series

first_imgMORE: Mitchell thanks teammates after flashing Game 4 warning at Rockets”I was driving by, a lady was falling out of her car, the airbags went off, she was grabbing her chest and I was like, ‘Oh shoot,’” Mitchell said (via the Tribune). “Like a natural instinct to found out what happened.” One Jazz fan even snapped a pic of him on the scene.pic.twitter.com/ByXjxYTdfv— Margarita Terry (@Atiragram00) April 23, 2019Mitchell later said no one involved was harmed.”I was just going out there to make sure she was OK,” he said. “I don’t want to make it like a big, big deal.” Fans are calling Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell a hero for his 31-point effort in Game 4 against the Rockets on Monday, which helped Utah to a 107-91 win to force a Game 5.Prior to that, however, Mitchell played the role of good Samaritan when he stopped at the scene of a car wreck on Sunday on his way home from practice. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Mitchell was driving by the scene of a wreck in downtown Salt Lake City when he pulled over, called 911 and made sure everything was OK.last_img read more