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Dr. James W. Jones


Fellow, American Society of Agricultural Engineers
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Fellow, American Society of Agronomy
Fellow, Soil Science Society of America

James Jones is the Director of the Florida Climate Institute. Dr. Jones is a Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, retiring from the department in 2010. He has built a remarkable career based on using computer simulation to integrate scientific knowledge for use in agricultural decision-making. His work has been acknowledged through his advanced rank at the university, through numerous awards and honors, and through the careers of many scientists he has trained. Dr. Jones was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012.

Jones took models for several crops that used different terms and methods and reworked them so that they could all fit into a unified modeling scheme, effectively creating a standard framework for additional crops. He also added more components to the models, including soil fertility and pest management. This modular approach made it was simpler to extend the model to more crops and to more complex scenarios.

The “model,” which was actually a collection of integrated models, was known as the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer, or DSSAT, and it has been continually improved and published for over 25 years. The technology transfer part of the name refers to the idea that agricultural technologies can be tested in the computer to reduce the number of field experiments needed before a producer makes a commitment to them. The effect of this has been to promote modern agricultural technology and management techniques and to increase food and fiber production in many regions of the world. Jones’ expertise has taken him to many countries to educate and advise, leaving behind valuable tools that local authorities and producers can use.

In the late 1990s, Jones became interested in developing a suite of applied models that would bring advances in climate prediction to agricultural producers. What came out of this effort was the Southeast Climate Consortium, which has grown to include research and extension workers from eight universities in five southeastern states. The tools are delivered through AgroClimate (, a Web site where extension agents and agricultural producers can access and use the expanding collection of climate-based applications. AgroClimate is supported by a team of scientists and educators who train producers how climate and decision support tools can benefit their operations. At the same time, the AgroClimate team learns from the producers and develops new tools and new approaches that meet their needs.

The SECC is a model organization, and it has been very successful. Jones has extended this idea and collaborated with climate scientists at the Florida State University to create a new climate research networking organization called the Florida Climate Institute (FCI). The goal of the FCI is to address the full range of impacts of climate variability and climate change. FCI will act as a networking and information hub aimed at fostering collaborations to address the many issues associated with climate variability, climate change, and sea level rise, and promoting awareness of research opportunities.