About NCSA's Blue Waters Super Computer

Blue Waters Website
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Todd Gleason tours the National Center for Supercomputing Applications Blue Waters facility on the University of Illinois campus.

FarmDocDaily Crop Insurance Tools Updated

Farmers around the nation are about to tap the birthplace of the internet browser for crop insurance data. Really! It’s a true statement. Todd Gleason has more from the University of Illinois.

Before Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Google’s Chrome, the first internet browser was called Mosaic. It was developed on the Univeristy of Illinois campus as part of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. NCSA is one of the places the internet was born. Today it is home to Blue Waters one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. And as of this month NCSA is home to the data farmers will use to help them make decisions about crop insurance via the FarmDoc website says NCSA’s Scott Wilkin.
Quote Summary - The way it will work is as an interactive website. It will actually be running on the web servers sitting at NCSA. We take the data, somebody says we want to make this happen; we want to understand the costs and benefits for an Enterprise Unit in Pike County, or Piatt County, or Champaign County. It runs the numbers automatically. It does the calculations right then. So, it is very sustainable.
So big deal you might says, “The FarmDOC (farm-doc) site has been home to the default crop insurance tools farmers in twelve corn and soybean producing states have used for a longtime.” This is true, but those have been hand-updated through an enormous Excel spreadsheet. The realtime calculations are the key and the reason agricultural economist Bruce Sherrick says the FarmDOC team moved the data to NCSA.
Quote Summary - From my perspective, they may not agree, but I think it has been a blast to see how folks who think about that as a normal environment attack a problem like this. By most of the scales they are used to working at we are probably a very small problem. By the scale we are used to working at, this was a really large numeric problem. So to be able to turn it over to somebody that thinks, not in terms of… a few billions is not a large number to somebody used to working in a National Center for Supercomputing applications environment.
NCSA is handling the front and back end of the new crop insurance calculators found on the FarmDOC pages. Those calculators must handle large stress loads during the Crop Insurance decision making time from March 1 to March 15. The volume of users coupled with the volume of calculations all done in realtime is mind boggling no more. NCSA will do the heavy lifting to help farmers quickly evaluate their federal crop insurance options.

Bull Buyers Guide

blog post source

It’s that time of year when farmers and ranchers buy bulls for their herds. They’re likely sifting through stacks of bull sale catalogs. Todd Gleason has some advice on evaluating a sire’s potential.

Snow Storm Followed by Arctic Blast

Agrible's Eric Snodgrass produces a weekly look at the agricultual weather forecast. This week's forecast focuses on the track of the winter storm across the Plains and upper Midwest along with the dangerous activity in the lower Mississipi River Valley.

...Snodgrass appears on WILLAg.org's Closing Market Report each Friday afternoon.

Tillage Practices Vary Across the United States

USDA ERS, Washington, D.C. -


No-till and strip-till are two of many tillage methods farmers use to plant crops. In a no-till system, farmers plant directly into the undisturbed residue of the previous crop without tillage, except for nutrient injection; in a strip-till system, only a narrow strip is tilled where row crops are planted. These tillage practices contribute to improving soil health, and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. During 2010-11, about 23 percent of land in corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat was on a farm where no-till/strip-till was used on every acre (full adopters). Another 33 percent of acreage in these crops was located on farms where a mix of no-till, strip-till, and other tillage practices were used on only some acres (partial adopters). In the Prairie Gateway, Northern Great Plains, and Heartland regions—which account for 72 percent of corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton acreage—more than half of these crop acres were on farms that used no-till/strip-till to some extent. Partial adopters have the equipment and expertise, at least for some crops, to use no-till/strip-till; these farmers may be well positioned to expand these practices to a larger share of cropland acreage. This chart is from the ERS report, Conservation-Practice Adoption Rates Vary Widely by Crop and Region, December 2015.