Providing climate information tools to agricultural communities
Interagency efforts develop and deliver science-based information and technologies to help agricultural producers and natural resource managers make optimal management decisions.
Farmers, ranchers, and land managers across the country rely on weather and climate information in their management decisions. To help producers and managers better understand the risks and opportunities that extreme weather events and climate change present for their operations, interagency efforts produce and deliver a range of information tools and resources that help guide climate risk management in agriculture now and in the future.
USDA’s ten regional Climate Hubs, hosted across the country in partnership with the Agricultural Research Service, the USDA-Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, deliver science-based knowledge, tools, and technical support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers to inform decision-making related to changing climate conditions and risks. Key partners in this effort include NOAA, DOI, public and land grant universities, cooperative extension services, and non-profits providing assistance to landowners. The Climate Hubs offer a variety of information resources that help translate climate change projections into potential impacts on the agriculture and forestry sectors and can inform actions to prepare for changing conditions, including a number of recent examples. The Southern Plains Hub, in collaboration with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, facilitated a new demonstration farm on Tribal lands to showcase the effectiveness of soil health practices in increasing land productivity, reducing environmental impacts, and building resiliency to droughts and floods. The Southeast Hub’s Lately Identified Geospatial Hazard Tracking System (SERCH LIGHTS) email alert service, drawn from NOAA datasets, notifies subscribers in the contiguous United States when climate-related conditions of potential concern arise in their area and provides links to supporting resources and management information. Monthly Drought and Cattle Heat Stress alerts are available for the contiguous United States; alerts for the Emerald Ash Borer pest and for fire weather conditions are under development. Finally, the Northeast Hub and its partners have developed a series of Adaptation Factsheets on cover cropping, managed grazing, and managing dairies in a changing climate.
The AgroClimate web resource, established with funding from USDA, NOAA, and state and regional partners, provides a range of customizable weather and climate decision tools and resources for agricultural producers to support management of climate risks in both day-to-day decisions and longer-term planning. For example, the Strawberry Advisory System decision-support tool has been used by Florida strawberry growers assess the risk of epidemics from anthracnose and Botrytis fruit rot on their farms, which are influenced by weather and climate conditions and can reduce yields and profits (see figure). Using the advisories, farmers are able to target fungicide application to periods when conditions are more likely to generate disease, reducing production costs and avoiding unnecessary applications. A number of tools were implemented and revised during the last year, including rainfall and temperature monitoring, a climatology tool, a growing degree-day calculator and monitoring tool, and a chill hours calculator and monitoring tool. In addition the AgroClimate Workbook provides an introduction to the effects of climate on agriculture and is designed to be used in conjunction with decision-support tools and information hosted on AgroClimate.org.
The Useful to Usable (U2U) research and extension project (funded 2011–2017) focused on improving the usability of climate information for agricultural production in the Midwestern United States. With core funding from USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and by leveraging NOAA datasets and expertise from the NOAA Midwestern and High Plains Regional Climate Centers, an interdisciplinary team from nine universities developed a series of climate-based tools and resources that have supported farm management and planning decisions on millions of acres across the U.S. Corn Belt. A recent evaluation found that farm advisors used U2U tools to assist clients with seed purchases, crop choices, and timing of fertilizer application. Farmers reported using the U2U tools to aid in planting and harvest scheduling, fertilizer management, and improvement of crop yields. U2U decision tools and related user guides continue to be accessible through the Midwestern and High Plains Regional Climate Centers and allow users to customize data for a variety of uses and locations, including historical climate and crop yield data (AgClimate Viewer), real-time corn growing degree day accumulations and climate risks for corn development (Corn Growing Degree Day), and the connections between global climate conditions and local climate impacts (Climate Patterns Viewer). Tools for determining the feasibility and profitability of using in-season nitrogen application for corn production (Corn Split Nitrogen Application) and exploring the profitability of investing in irrigation equipment (Irrigation Investment) are also available.The AgBizClimate farm-level management tool assesses how climate change could impact costs and returns over the next twenty to thirty years for producers of specific agricultural commodities. Using AgBizClimate, farmers can see the impact of expected climate changes on their cropping system or livestock enterprise in terms of their economic costs and returns, and how changes in farm practices such as technology changes or crop choices may influence the health of their businesses. This tool is a powerful means to help farmers understand their area’s available climate information and can also serve as an assessment tool for researchers and government agencies. AgBizClimate is part of a suite of AgBiz LogicTM decision tools that enable agribusiness professionals to make sustainable choices that impact their bottom line. AgBiz LogicTM was developed through a partnership among the USDA Northwest Climate Hub, Oregon State University, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, and USDA-NIFA. With support from the USDA Climate Change Program Office, efforts are underway to expand participation and use across the USDA Climate Hubs, specifically with the Northwest, Northeast, and Southwest regions and the NOAA RISA Climate Impacts Research Consortium at Oregon State University.
 Cordova, L.G., Amiri, A.P, and Peres, N.A. 2017. Effectiveness of fungicide treatments following the Strawberry Advisory System for control of Botrytis fruit rot in Florida. Crop Protection 100: 163-167.