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Robust parameter settings of evolutionary algorithms for the optimisation of agricultural systems models

D.G. Mayer a,*, J.A. Belward b, K. Burrage b

Queensland Beef Industry Institute, Department of Primary Industries, LMB 4, Moorooka Queensland 4105, Australia b Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and Parallel Computing, University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia Received 21 July 2000; received in revised form 7 December 2000; accepted 31 January 2001

a

Abstract Numerical optimisation methods are being more commonly applied to agricultural systems models, to identify the most protable management strategies. The available optimisation algorithms are reviewed and compared, with literature and our studies identifying evolutionary algorithms (including genetic algorithms) as superior in this regard to simulated annealing, tabu search, hill-climbing, and direct-search methods. Results of a complex beef property optimisation, using a real-value genetic algorithm, are presented. The relative contributions of the range of operational options and parameters of this method are discussed, and general recommendations listed to assist practitioners applying evolutionary algorithms to the solution of agricultural systems. # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Optimisation; Model; Genetic algorithm; Evolutionary algorithm; Parameters

1. Introduction Systems research is increasingly being used for the solution of large, complex problems (Hammel, 1997), including agricultural systems. The steps of model denition, development, validation, and investigation have been well documented (Dent and Blackie, 1979; Bratley et al., 1987). For models where complete factorial

* Corrresponding author. Tel.: +61-7-3362-9574; fax: +61-7-3362-9429. E-mail address: mayerd1@dpi.qld.gov.au (D.G. Mayer). 0308-521X/01/$ - see front matter # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S0308-521X(01)00025-7

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enumeration of the search-space (i.e. testing every combination of possible management options) is infeasible, the next logical step in this process is often the identication of the optimal management strategy for the model. To achieve this, the model needs to be integrated with an optimisation algorithm, so that the combination of management options which gives the best simulated performance (protability, gross margin, or some other economic or utility measure) can be identied. It is then expected that this simulated management strategy will extend to the realworld system being modelled, and also produce optimal protability there. The object of this paper is rst to review and compare previous optimisation studies on agricultural and other models. The operational parameters of the method found to be most ecient (a real-value evolutionary algorithm) are then discussed. Results are presented for the optimisation of a complex whole-property model, using this method. General discussions and recommendations are then listed concerning likely robust parameters of evolutionary algorithms, for the future ecient optimisation of agricultural systems models.

2. Optimisation methods for agricultural systems models The numerical optimisation of an agricultural systems model requires the model to be integrated with one of the many available optimisation algorithms. Interestingly, for a number of these methods it has been theoretically proven that they will converge to the global optimum as the number of iterations approaches innity. The simplex algorithm has been proven convergent, on strictly convex functions in lower dimensions (Lagarias et al., 1998). Using Markov chain theory on combinatorial optimisation problems, this property also holds for simulated annealing (van Laarhoven and Aarts, 1987), genetic algorithms which incorporate elitism (Peck and Dhawan, 1995), and evolution strategies (Ba ck and Schwefel, 1993). However, these results are probably mostly of academic interest, as they cover only a subset of potential optimisation problems, and are unrealistic. If innite iterations were truly possible, the optimum would simply be found by complete enumeration. What is required from a practical viewpoint is a method which is both robust (i.e. it will reliably converge to the global optimum) and ecient (also achieving this within minimal computing time). From practical studies, a number of possible optimisation methods have been shown to be either inappropriate for the task of model optimisation, markedly inecient, or prone to converging to local optima (rather than the targeted global optimum). These inappropriate methods include the hill-climbing (or gradient-type) methods (Fletcher, 1987), direct-search algorithms (Bunday, 1984), including the Nelder-Mead simplex (Nelder and Mead, 1965), and the tabu search metastrategy (Glover et al., 1993). The remaining two general families of optimisation methods have proven valuable in this eld. Based on the annealing or cooling processes of metallurgy, simulated annealing (Kirkpatrick et al., 1983; Corana et al., 1987), and its more ecient extension of simulated quenching (Ingber, 1993), have been used to successfully identify the economic optima of a range of agricultural systems. However, their

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rates of convergence have been identied as a concern for some problems, which then leads on to excessive run-times being required to achieve the optimum. The second successful family of methods covers the evolutionary algorithms (including evolution strategies, binary and real-value genetic algorithms, and their various combinations). By modelling the processes of natural selection and evolution, these methods have been shown to be robust and ecient across a range of problem types (Ba ck and Schwefel, 1993; Michalewicz, 1996).

3. Comparisons of optimisation methods Quite a number of comparisons between optimisation algorithms have been conducted on a range of mathematical test functions, with varying results. In general, the more modern optimisation methods (simulated annealing and evolutionary algorithms) appear superior, however the other methods can and do perform well on specic types of problems. These test function results, however, are only approximately applicable to the optimisation of management strategies in systems models. Simulation models form one of the more dicult classes of optimisation problems (Mayer et al., 1998a). They are typically of higher dimensionality, as each individual management option to be optimised contributes an extra dimension to the searchspace. The response surface generated by models can be non-smooth, and include discontinuities and clis. These occur when the agricultural system is pushed too far (e.g. overstocking), so that it crashes (both biologically and thus economically). The impact of any altered management strategy may take a number of years to settle in, so the dynamic nature of these trends needs to be accounted for. Also, agricultural models have been shown to contain multiple local (as opposed to global) optimal solutions (Mayer et al., 1996; Hammel, 1997). Given the limitations of the hill-climbing methods when applied to these types of systems, it is not surprising that relatively few applications have appeared in the literature. Roise (1990) used the conjugate directions method to optimise small to moderately sized spatial models of forestry stands. Generally, though, gradient methods have more been used as benchmarks against which alternate optimisation methods are shown to be superior, in the optimisation of model protability (Mayer et al., 1991, 1996; Hart et al., 1998) and in model calibration (Hendrickson et al., 1988; Wang, 1991). Similarly, direct-search algorithms have been used with mixed success in the optimisation of agricultural models. Mayer et al. (1991, 1996) showed the simplex method performed better than gradient methods on a dairy farm model, but found both to be inferior to the more modern algorithms. Botes et al. (1996) found the simplex to be more exible and realistic than dynamic programming on a crop irrigation problem, and Parsons (1998) showed it to have approximately comparable performance to a genetic algorithm in determining an optimal silage harvesting plan. Whilst the tabu search strategy is ecient when dealing with spatial or temporal allocation-type problems, it is ill-suited to the optimisation of systems models (Mayer et al., 1998b). To our knowledge, it has yet to be applied successfully in this eld.

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Simulated annealing has been used successfully in a number of modelling studies. Optimal groundwater remediation strategies were determined using this approach (Kuo et al., 1992). This model had previously defeated hill-climbing methods, which tended to repeatedly converge to sub-optimal solutions. Considering the harvesting schedule for forestry blocks, Lockwood and Moore (1993) report simulated annealing applications covering moderate to large sized problems. Bos (1993) also used simulated annealing to solve a forestry management problem, which had proved too computationally intensive for the branch and bound method. On a temporal harvesting model of a prawn shery, Watson and Sumner (1997) adopted simulated annealing to avoid being trapped by the many local optima. The CERES-Maize agricultural model was calibrated to USA data (Paz et al., 1999), also via this method. Of the family of evolutionary algorithms, binary genetic algorithms have seen most use in the optimisation of agricultural systems. In horticultural planning, Annevelink (1992) outlined a spatial/temporal allocation problem which was solved by a genetic algorithm, after initial linear and dynamic programming approaches proved inadequate. Horton (1996) showed genetic algorithms eciently solved a sheep genetics model, identifying optimal solutions which hill-climbing methods repeatedly failed to nd. The annual grazing management plan, drafting weights, and fertilizer and supplementation usage of a sheep farm were successfully optimised with a genetic algorithm (Barioni et al., 1997). Parsons (1998) showed a genetic algorithm to be marginally superior to the simplex method in optimising the silage harvesting plans of a farm. Hart et al. (1998) found a hybrid approach, incorporating a genetic algorithm with hill-climbing, to be the best for optimising a dairy farm model. Direct comparisons of the optimisation methods on our series of studies are listed in Table 1. This shows the relative success of each (measured as the percent of the

Table 1 Average identied optima (% of global optimum), and number of model runs (000, in brackets) to achieve each of these, for investigated agricultural models and optimisation methods Dairy farma,b Herd dynamicsc,d Restricted Dimensionality Search-space Hill-climbing (quasi-Newton) Direct-search (Simplex) Simulated annealing Simulated quenching Binary genetic algorithm Evolution strategy Real-value genetic algorithm

a b c d

Full 40 10100

16 1023 84.66 94.27 100 99.80 99.68 (0.6) (0.4) (103) (3.7) (10)

20 1050

Mayer et al. (1995). Mayer et al. (1996). Mayer et al. (1999a). Mayer et al (1999b).

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global optimal protability), as well as their eciency (the number of individual model runs to achieve this). The earlier investigations (Mayer et al., 1995, 1996) conrm the hill-climbing and direct-search methods as practically unsuitable for this model. In the latter studies (Mayer et al., 1999a, b) all investigated methods performed reasonably well. The obvious concern here (Table 1) is the notable deterioration of both the eciency and reliability of simulated annealing and quenching, as the problem size increases.

4. Beef property optimisation Considering an average beef property in the northern speargrass region of Queensland (ORourke et al., 1992), previous investigations of the herd dynamics submodels (Mayer et al., 1999a, b) provided valuable insights into optimal trading (buying and selling) decisions. Using an annual time step, the numbers of animals in each sex and age cohort (Nsex,age) are modelled by: Nsex;age Nsex;age-1 1 Mortalitysex;age-1 Purchasessex;age Salessex;age ; with Nsex;0 0:5

10 X age2

1 CalfLossRatefemale;age Purchasessex;0 Salessex;0 However, the operation of a beef production enterprise encompasses a much wider range of strategies than just trading decisions. To properly investigate the full range of management options available to property operators, the model must be able to realistically represent all the key processes and pathways of this system. No model can totally simulate such an operation, but consultations with producers and experienced personnel identied the key biological and managerial processes which were likely to be of most signicance. The herd dynamics submodel was enhanced to allow a daily (rather than annual) time step, allowing within-year details such as mating period, weaning dates, and buying and selling times. Also, the weights and life-histories of individual animals were simulated (rather than just cohorts of average animals), thus modelling the eects of delayed or out-of-season pregnancies on weight dynamics, calving, and future performance. The key dynamic biological and managerial processes incorporated in this model are as follows. 4.1. Reproduction rates At each day within the dened mating period, each cow is given a stochastic probability of conception, via a relationship based on breed, lactation status, age

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and condition (Mayer et al., 1999c). Following the (randomly determined) simulated pregnancy of a cow, calving occurs deterministically 284 days later, with calves having dened weights of 30 kg (Zebu crosses), 32 kg (Africanders), 34 kg (British breeds) and 41 kg (European breeds). A stochastic calf mortality rate of 10% is applied at birth. 4.2. Mortality rates For males (bulls and steers), mortality rates in the target region are generally assumed to be low, and of less importance than the higher mortalities of breeders. Currently for male animals, stochastic mortality is applied at a rate of 2% per annum, applied on a daily basis. Female animals (heifers and breeders) also experience stochastic mortality, dependent on age, condition, and rate of weight change (Mayer et al., 1999c). 4.3. Weaning Two weanings are allowed per year, at any nominated dates. The rst weaning is optional, and (if used) needs a nominated minimum weaning weight any calves below this weight are not weaned at this time. The second weaning is mandatory, and all calves are weaned at this date. 4.4. Herd and farm structure A stable opening herd, where sucient calves are retained each year to replace the older animals dying or being sold o, was estimated via the annual model BREEDCOW (Holmes, 1995). This herd was consistent with surveyed production data (ORourke et al., 1992). A bull ratio of one bull per 30 breeders was maintained by additional annual sales or purchases of bulls. Spaying of cows was not considered, and the breed used was nominally Zebu Fn crosses (allowable alternate breed types are Zebu F1 crosses, Africanders, British breeds, and Europeans). Overall average current prices by animal type and age were estimated, from National Livestock Reporting Service data. Variable per annum costs were $12 per calf, $15 per bull and $6 for other animals, and xed property costs were set at $80 000 p.a. Given the excessive run-times of this model on a personal computer, it was ported across to SUN workstations running Unix, and recoded to become a subroutine called from within the evolutionary algorithm GENIAL (Widell, 1997). The objective function to be optimised was taken as the non-discounted operating prot over 10 years, plus the value of the closing herd, and less the value of the initial herd. Even using the somewhat restricted and thus simplied version of this whole-property model, there are 70 management options to be considered, as listed in Table 2. This poses a very dicult problem to optimise. The combination of problem size and lengthy computations remained a concern. Depending on the workstation used, individual 10-year model runs took 3050 s

D.G. Mayer et al. / Agricultural Systems 69 (2001) 199213 Table 2 Management options and bounds for the whole-property beef model Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 714 1522 2330 3138 3946 4754 5562 6370 Denition Starting day (of the year) for the mating period. Length of the mating period, in days. Is early weaning used? Day of the year for early weaning. Minimum weight (kg) used in early weaning. Day of the year for late weaning. Number of steers (ages 18, respectively) bought in each year. Number of cows (ages 18, respectively) bought in each year. Day of the year for purchasing steers (ages 18). Day of the year for purchasing cows (ages 18). Proportion of steer age cohorts (ages 18) sold each year. Proportion of cow age cohorts (ages 18) sold each year. Day of the year for selling steers (ages 18). Day of the year for selling cows (ages 18).

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Bounds 1364 1364 Yes or no 190 60120 91140 020 020 120 120 01 01 141210 141210

each. Hence, even a one-month optimisation on the fastest machine would only generate around 90 000 model runs, which is well short of the 29 million required for convergence by the various optimisation methods in Table 1. Also, this current model is far more complex than those previously tackled, with 70 dimensions and a practical search-space of the order of 10120 possible combinations. So, only the most ecient routines can be considered for this task, which rules out simulated annealing and evolution strategies. The binary and real-value genetic algorithms performed similarly on the largest problem tackled thus far (Table 1). For the optimisation of the whole-property model, the real-value genetic algorithm was selected. This was mainly because it incorporates a wider range of operational parameters and options, importantly including boundary mutation which is likely to enhance its performance with this model (as many of the trading decisions, in particular, will be optimal at their boundaries).

5. Operational parameters of evolutionary algorithms Practitioners using evolutionary algorithms in the optimisation of management strategies using agricultural systems models are faced with a wide range of operational parameters. These control the balance between exploitation (using existing genetic material in the population to best eect) and exploration (searching for better genes). The operational parameters can be ne-tuned in practice, and have varying degrees of eectiveness some operators may prove critical to eciency, with others less so. The key operators of recombination and mutation have a synergistic eect (Fogel, 1995), so these should always be used in conjunction with each other. In practice, evolutionary algorithms using only one of these have proved inferior (Ba ck and Schwefel, 1993; Michalewicz, 1996). Overall performance of the

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various operators remains likely to be problem-dependent (Goldberg, 1989; Fogel, 1995; Horton, 1996; Michalewicz, 1996). Practitioners must weigh up the relative advantages and disadvantages of this range of operators, including the following. 5.1. Coding of modelled options to genetic representation Within genetic algorithms, the two main options are real-value coding (where each gene is a numerical representation of one of the management options being optimised), and binary coding (where each option is mapped onto one or a series of binary genes, dependent on the precision required for each). In practice, there appears little dierence in performance between these methods of coding (Mu hlenbein and Schlierkamp-Voosen, 1994), as was also evident in Table 1. Real-value coding was selected for the optimisation of the whole beef property model, because of the suggested superiority of a 1-to-1 option-to-gene coding (Michalewicz, 1996), as well as the wider available range of potentially useful genetic operators for this representation. 5.2. Population size Each individual of the genetic algorithms population consists of a trial combination of management options. The population must contain a sucient number of individuals to maintain genetic diversity, but carrying too many proves inecient. Hart et al. (1998) found 10 to be insucient, and a range of reported studies indicate values of up to 200, with an overall average of about 50. However, the optimal value for any given problem is obviously related to its size and dimensionality (Peck and Dhawan, 1995). For the 16-dimensional dairy farm model (Mayer et al., 1995, 1996), a population size of 40 proved marginally better than 80. With the 20-dimensional herd dynamics model (Mayer et al., 1999a), sizes of 30 and 50 performed approximately equally. For the 40-dimensional version (Mayer et al., 1999a, b), the binary genetic algorithm showed populations of up to 100 to be slightly better than one optimisation using 150. On this same model, the real-value genetic algorithm showed a population of 100 converged more rapidly than 50 or 500, however, this comparison was partially confounded with dierent mutation operators. Taken overall, it appears that population sizes need to be (at least) greater than the dimensionality of the studied problem. As there are understandable dangers of having too small a population, and not much penalty for a few too many, a population size of twice the dimensionality appears both quite ecient and intuitively safe. 5.3. Selection of parents Given the range of possible selection schemes, it is fortunate that this operator appears to be one of the less critical. The various types of selection schemes have been shown to produce similar selection pressures across the population (De Jong and Sarma, 1995; Blickle and Thiele, 1997). Roulette-wheel selection based on ranks or scores (with a variety of possible scaling options) tends to be more computationally

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demanding, particularly when used with steady-state replacement. Conversely, tournament selection can be readily and eciently implemented with any of the other operators. Overall results indicate that tournament selection, with a tournament size of two, performs well over a number of problem types. If more selection pressure is desired, then truncation selection or a larger tournament size could be used. 5.4. Replacement strategy Initial genetic algorithms tended to use a generation gap of one, whereby all parents were replaced by the next generation of ospring. Under this scheme, elitism (where, at least, the best parent is retained) was strongly recommended. More recently, steady-state replacement has become more common, with only the poorest individuals (or single individual) of the population being replaced at each step. This ensures retention of the best parents, and also makes the new ospring immediately available to the optimisation, which is advantageous as they should be amongst the best individuals at any time. When adding the new individuals to the population, the deterministic replacement of the worst parents seems logical, given that any stochastic (random) replacement method can result in the loss of some of the elite parents. 5.5. Mutation The binary genetic algorithms traditionally used mutation as a background operator, having only low rates of the order of 0.001 to 0.01. Given that each modelled real-world option here usually mapped to a string of binary genes, mutated values of these options would occur at higher probabilities than these base rates, but still only occasionally. This results in much longer escape time for populations which have converged (primarily via the process of recombination) onto local optima. Genetic algorithms using low mutation rates can stay converged (within available computational time) on these local optima, as mutation occurs too infrequently in practice to nd the optimal region. More recently, and especially with real-value codings, higher mutation rates (up to about 0.4) have been found benecial (Hinterding et al., 1995; Michalewicz, 1996; Ba ck, 1997). Mayer et al. (1999b) list good results from quite a wide range of mutation probabilities, up to 0.6. In addition, multiple mutation (incorporating at least two dierent types of mutation operators, at varying probabilities) also appears more successful. The choice of just which mutation operators to use is also important on real-value genes, uniform or Gaussian creep (in the style of evolution strategies) appear more successful than traditional uniform (random) mutation, and boundary mutation can be very eective on problems where the global optimum occurs when a number of the input options lie at their respective boundaries. 5.6. Recombination Often considered to be the driving force of evolutionary algorithms, recombination (or crossover) has a wide range of possible types, namely one-point, multiple-point,

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uniform, intermediate arithmetical, and extended arithmetical. These have been applied across the whole range of possible probabilities (0.001 to 1.0), generally with reasonable success. In our research, all types (except intermediate arithmetical crossover) have been used with good eect, and here there is no indication of the superiority of any (or, perhaps, any dierences were confounded with changes in the other operational parameters). For general use, extended arithmetical crossover appears a safe choice, as it provides some searching plus good mixing of the parents genetic material. The balance between mutation and recombination remains important, and using approximately equal weightings of these two key operators generally ensures their synergistic eect.

6. Beef property optimisations Despite the promising results of the real-value genetic algorithm in Table 1, we still require the most ecient implementation of this method, as only a limit of around 0.1 million model runs is computationally feasible. From the rates of convergence of the evolutionary algorithm optimisations of the 40-dimensional herd dynamics model (not presented), the two outstanding performers were the optimisations using higher population numbers (100 and 500, rather than 50), combined with moderate-level double mutation operators. Time limitations only allowed four optimisations of the whole-property model. All used deterministic tournament selection of parents (with a tournament size of two), as this method is computationally more ecient than ranking and/or weighting the populations scores each iteration. Sub-generational replacement of the worst individuals was also used, and this guarantees elitism. The balance between crossover and mutation, as controlled by weighting factors in GENIAL, was set at a ratio of 1:1. Following considerations of all previous results, the four optimisation methods chosen consisted of a factorial of two population sizes (namely 200 with 150 of these being replaced each generation, and 500 with 400 replacements), by two clusters of operations. The lower population size (200) was selected as being between two and three times the dimensionality of the beef model, and 500 was chosen as a larger comparative level to ensure adequate genetic diversity is maintained in the population. The rst of the clusters of operations represents a more standard group of operators, namely uniform crossover (with a crossover probability of 0.50, and weight of 50%) combined with double mutation (low-level Gaussian creep mutation at a probability of 0.05 and weight of 25%, plus moderate-level boundary mutation of probability 0.20 and weight 25%). The second cluster of operators is more comprehensive, and was selected to allow a shotgun approach in the absence of much knowledge of the relative eectiveness of various parameters (given their potentially dierent weights and probabilities), a large number of recombination and mutation operators can be applied to the problem. The expected advantage of this is that dierent operators will prove more eective during the various stages of the optimisation. For example, expansive operators will be particularly useful early (during exploration), and operators which

209

introduce smaller-scale changes will be better in the latter (ne-tuning) phases. This shotgun cluster consisted of four crossover and 12 mutation operators. The crossovers were one-point (weight of 5%), two-point (same weight), uniform (weight of 20% and probability of 0.50), and random extended arithmetical crossover (weight of 22% and probability of 0.50). This gives a total crossover weighting of 52%, leaving 48% for the remaining mutation operators, and thus approximately maintaining the 1:1 ratio between the operator types. The 12 mutation operators of this shotgun approach were all given a weight of 4%, and ranged widely in terms of types and probabilities, as listed in Table 3. The minimum probability of 0.02 was chosen to give an expectation of about one gene mutated per new population member. Each of the four investigative optimisations was terminated either manually or as a result of power failures, which occurred with annoying regularity during the summer months. These optimisations generated between 25 300 and 63 300 model runs each, with the longest taking 39 days (and, incidentally, running right across the threatened Y2K bug). As expected, and evident in Fig. 1, these optimisations had not converged adequately within these numbers of model runs. However, they were at least approaching their asymptotic phases. The nal management options thus identied by the four optimisations varied somewhat, and probably few are exactly optimal, as the routines had not converged. As expected, the standard operator optimisations (which had boundary mutation at a weighting of 25%, compared to a total of only 16% under the shotgun approach) had more of their options on the boundaries. This appears to have been eective on this particular problem, because for each population size the standard operators resulted in economic superiority (Fig. 1). The shotgun operators would (presumably) have caught up eventually, as the other forms of mutation crept onto these management boundaries, and perhaps then their more comprehensive search pattern may have found better solutions. However, within available computation, this possibility could not be investigated. The lower population size of 200 appears superior, especially when used with the standard operators. This shows that a population of around three times the problems dimensionality (of 70) did contain sucient genetic diversity, whereas carrying larger numbers (500) tended to slow down the overall process. One further trial optimisation (to only 104 model runs), using the standard operators and a population of 150 (being approximately twice the dimensionality), gave very similar results to the optimisation using 200. This suggests that about two-plus is an appropriate

Table 3 Mutation operators used in the shotgun genetic algorithm Type of mutation Mutation probabilities 0.02 Uniform Uniform creep Gaussian creep Boundary @ @ @ @ @ @ @ 0.05 0.10 @ @ @ @ 0.20 0.50 @

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Fig. 1. Rates of convergence for evolutionary algorithm optimisations of beef property model (solid line for standard operators and population size of 200; short-dash for standard operators and 500; longdash for shotgun operators and 200; dot-dash for shotgun operators and 500).

multiplier of the problems dimensionality to use in practice. It would appear imprudent to go much below this, especially with new problems. Finally, to test the possible eect of the balance of crossover to mutation operators, two further replicate optimisations were also conducted. These used the best combination from Fig. 1 (a population size of 200 and the standard set of operators), but had a crossover to mutation ratio of 1:2. Unfortunately, both replicates were terminated fairly early by power failures, at 8400 and 5500 model runs respectively. Up until these points, their rates of convergence straddled the solid line of Fig. 1 (one replicate was continually above, and the other below). This indicates, once again, that the exact balance between these primary operators of evolutionary algorithms is not critical.

7. Conclusions For the ecient optimisation of large, complex models of agricultural systems, evolutionary algorithms have proven to be the most ecient and robust of the

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currently-available optimisation methods. Suggested operational settings which have been shown to work well on this series of agricultural models include: 1. 2. 3. 4. real-value coding; a population size of the order of two times the dimensionality of the problem; tournament selection of the parents, with a tournament size of two; steady-state deterministic replacement of the worst individuals (thus assuring elitism); 5. at least two dierent concurrent mutation operators, each with a probability in the range of 0.050.20; 6. recombination via extended arithmetical crossover; and 7. the total of the mutation operators having approximately equal weighting to that of the recombination operators.

Acknowledgements We are grateful to Lester Ingber, John Grefenstette and Henrik Widell for making their optimisation algorithms available for general use.

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