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One-Stop Website for Interactive Weather Tools
Here’s a website that all farm weather junkies will want to bookmark: agclimate4U.org.
The site is a project of state and agricultural university climatologists, agronomists, and marketing experts. Built with USDA funding, they say it’s a one-stop shop for useful and interactive weather tools that can help with decisions involving crop insurance, fertilizer timing, and even marketing.
“It’s all been out there before. This just puts it in one place,” says Jim Angel, the Illinois state climatologist at the University of Illinois. “Our goal is to help producers make better long-term decisions on managing crops for maximum yields and minimum environmental damage.”
Here are his top four farmer tools at the site.
Corn Split-N Decision Support
This tool can help determine the feasibility and profitability of using postplanting nitrogen applications in corn. It uses yield response data from Midwestern states and statistical modeling of days suitable for fieldwork. It also uses estimates of corn development stages based on location, selected planting date, and accumulated corn growing degree days (GDDs) for the year.
“Based on history, it factors in the number of days in a certain time period you can expect to get in the field to do the split nitrogen application,” says Angel, a principal team member in building the agclimate4U site. “It even will give you a risk analysis of the expected yield penalty for not getting it put on.”
Corn Growing Degree Days
Corn has a strong relationship with temperature, Angel notes. “No other crop is so predictable by GDDs.”
This tool puts current conditions into a 30-year historical perspective and offers trend projections through the end of the calendar year. Angle says GDD projections, combined with analysis of historical data, can help as you make decisions in three main areas.
- Climate risks: Identify the likelihood of early and late frosts or freezes.
- Activity planning: Consider corn hybrid estimated physiological maturity requirements along with GDD projections when purchasing seed and making other in-season decisions.
- Marketing: Look at historical and projected GDDs when considering forward pricing and crop insurance purchases.
It’s not a crystal ball, says Angel, but information derived from this tool can help make inferences about the growing season, especially when combined with personal experience and localized knowledge.
“It’s my favorite of all the tools,” he says.
The interactive features let you play with dates such as silking or corn black layer, then project ahead with National Weather Service 30-day forecasts to the likelihood of frost or heat stress. “You can change your corn maturity dates and plot your risk potential for frost in a year after an El Niño,” Angel says of the possible ways to use this tool.
This tool is a source for historical climate and crop yield data in the Corn Belt. With it, you can do the following:
- Plot local monthly temperature and precipitation variation back to 1980.
- Track county crop yields and trends where data is available.
- Consider crop yields in the context of monthly temperature, precipitation, and GDDs.
Used in tandem with other decision resources, this product finds long-term correlations between climate trends and yields to help put your recent growing cycles into historical context. An interactive map lets you click on a weather station in an area close to you so you can call up historical climate and yield data for use in creating a custom chart.
Climate Patterns Viewer
This product provides a historical look at how El Niño and the Arctic Oscillation in ocean temperatures influence local climate conditions and corn yields across the Corn Belt. Simple maps and charts show how specific phases of the ocean temperature events have impacted the following:
- Average monthly temperatures and precipitation.
- Deviations of temperature and precipitation from 1981 to 2010.
- Corn yield deviations from trend.