During the 1980's, a small multidisciplinary group of faculty from the departments of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Agricultural Economics, and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and involving both research and extension personnel formed under the leadership of Dr. C. J. Scifres to work on Integrated Brush Management Systems (IBMS). IBMS was focused initially on the Coastal Prairies and South Texas Plains Land Resource Areas and was the first formal attempt to develop a protocol for applying a systematic, integrated planning and implementation approach to dealing with rangeland brush and weed problems, while recognizing multiple land values and management goals.
In the mid-1980's a subgroup formed from the IBMS team and focused on the development of computerized decision support systems for management of natural resources. This subgroup, including Drs. Jerry Stuth and Richard Conner and Wayne Hamilton, formed as the Ranching Systems Group (RSG) and began to seek and receive funding for work in information technologies. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was among the largest of the initial grantors. In 1988, NRCS began annual funding for the development of a rangeland planning software program developed by RSG, Grazing Land Applications (GLA) and over a period of several years provided approximately $1,000,000 for the development effort and institutionalized GLA as the agency's national rangeland planning software. This NRCS funding, as well as other grants and contracts, allowed RSG to establish a skilled staff of programmers and modelers, technical editors and research associates.
In the late 1980's the RSG, and later CNRIT, began the development of a grazingland plant growth simulation model (PHYGROW). Early versions of this model were built on the foundations of early USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) simulation models. As the development continued PHYGROW became increasingly sophisticated and complex. Like all simulation models it has been, and will continue to be, modified and adapted to better meet the needs of rangeland decision makers. Decision support tools that have been developed by CNRIT using PHYGROW; including LEWS, BRASS and FRAMS; are described in their own sections available from the links to the left.
In 1991, an opportunity to become a formalized component of the Agriculture Program as a Center became available when Dr. Allen Jones, Resident Director of the Blackland Research and Extension Center at Temple, moved into an administrative position in College Station and asked Dr. Jerry Stuth to assume directorship of CNRIT. In the early part of the current decade, Dr. Neville Clarke became the Director of CNRIT and contributed heavily to funding for programmer and modeler staff members as part of the Homeland Security effort. However, during the entire period, from the earliest days of the RSG through the growth and development of CNRIT into a world class IT entity and until his death in 2006, Jerry Stuth provided outstanding leadership.
Jerry Stuth's Legacy
In Albuquerque, New Mexico in February 2009, Dr. Jerry Stuth was presented posthumously with the highest award that is given by the national Society for Range Management, the Renner Award. There is perhaps no better way to acknowledge Jerry's contribution to CNRIT, Texas A&M, his faculty peers and research and teaching associates than with the citation read during the presentation ceremony, as follows:
Dr. Stuth's contributions to the range management profession are enormous. First and foremost he was a highly respected educator and research scientist in that he 1) chaired the graduate committees of over 60 Masters and PhD students; 2) formally taught 2000+ undergraduate and graduate students in an array of rangeland management courses; 3) authored or co-authored 92 refereed journal articles, 24 books and book chapters, 90 proceedings, 27 agency publications, 11 software user's guides, and developed and released 22 software programs; while 4) concurrently administering over $35,000,000 in grants. More specifically, Dr. Stuth was recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the development and application of information technology for the management of rangeland ecosystems. His many accomplishments were cutting edge and pioneering. The following is a brief list of said accomplishments:
National Resource Planning System for USDA-NRCS: Dr. Stuth's leadership was key in the development of the first computerized resource planning system for grazinglands. Subsequent refinement of the system resulted in the Grazingland Spatial Analysis Tool (GSAT) which was adopted and is used intensively as the official planning tool by USDA NRCS.
Non-Invasive Nutritional Monitoring Systems for the Ranching Industry: Dr. Stuth developed methodology whereby feces of free-ranging livestock can be scanned with a near infrared reflectance spectrophotometer to estimate diet quality. In concert with this technology, he developed the nutritional balance analyzer (NUTBAL) supporting software and the national grazingland animal nutrition lab (GANLAB).
Livestock Early Warning Systems: Dr. Stuth developed the first livestock early warning system (LEWS) that delivers 90-day forecasts of impending shortfalls in forage production. Technology was developed for East Africa but is now used extensively across an array of the world's arid regions including portions of the U.S.