What can systems and control theory do for agricultural science?

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Abstract

Abstract: While many professionals with a background in agricultural and bio-resource sciences work with models, only few have been exposed to systems and control theory. The purpose of this paper is to elucidate a selection of methods from systems theory that can be beneficial to quantitative agricultural science. The state space representation of a dynamical system is the corner stone in the mainstream of systems theory. It is not well known in agro-modelling that linearization followed by evaluation of eigenvalues and eigenvectors of the system matrix is useful to obtain dominant time constants and dominant directions in state space, and offers opportunities for science-based model reduction. The continuous state space description is also useful in deriving truly equivalent discrete time models, and clearly shows that parameters obtained with discrete models must be interpreted with care when transferred to another model code environment. Sensitivity analysis of dynamic models reveals that sensitivity is time and input dependent. Identifiability and sensitivity are essential notions in the design of informative experiments, and the idea of persistent excitation, leading to dynamic experiments rather than the usual static experiments can be very beneficial. A special branch of systems theory is control theory. Obviously, control plays an important part in agricultural and bio-systems engineering, but it is argued that also agronomists can profit from notions from the world of control, even if practical control options are restricted to alleviating growth limiting conditions, rather than true crop control. The most important is the idea of reducing uncertainty via feed-back. On the other hand, the systems and control community is challenged to do more to address the problems of real life, such as spatial variability, measurement delays, lacking data, environmental stochasticity, parameter variability, unavoidable model uncertainty, discrete phenomena, variable system structures, the interaction of technical ad living systems, and, indeed, the study of the functioning of life itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-117
JournalAutomatika
Volume49
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • sensitivity analysis
  • neural networks
  • model

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