A group of Purdue University researchers has led the “Useful to Usable” climate initiative in launching two free online tools to help farmers make crop decisions in variable weather conditions.

Useful to Usable, or U2U, aims to improve profitability and longevity of U.S. farms amid a variable and changing climate. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is composed of a team of 50 faculty, staff and students from nine universities who specialize in applied climatology, crop modeling, agronomy, cyber technology, agricultural economics and other social sciences. The team is led by Linda Prokopy, Purdue associate professor of forestry and natural resources. 

One of the recently launched tools, "AgClimate View," offers users access to historical climate and crop yield data for the Corn Belt, including monthly temperature and precipitation, and plots corn and soybean yield trends. It also allows users to compare climate and yield data from the past 30 years.

The second tool, "Corn Growing Degree Day," gives producers the ability to track current and historical growing degree day accumulations. Growing degree days are a measure of heat accumulation that helps farmers predict plant development rates and maturity dates.

This tool also offers information to help farmers assess spring and fall frost risk and make planting, harvest and seed-selection decisions. It integrates corn development stages with weather and climate data and allows farmers to find location-specific information.

"We're excited to announce the launch of our first of several decision-support tools," Prokopy said. "Our social science research on the front end helped our team create easy-to-use tools that make climate data accessible and useful to the agricultural community.

"We'd like to think we are demystifying climate data one user at a time and hope producers will use the information to make better decisions and ultimately increase yields with minimal environmental impact."

Both tools are designed for crop producers and agricultural advisers in the North Central region of the U.S., as well as Kentucky and Tennessee. They can be found on the U2U website at http://www.agclimate4u.org.

Also on the site are a number of other decision-support resources from U2U partner universities. Those resources include a corn nitrogen calculator, nitrogen watch, irrigation scheduling and a cover crop decision tool. All of these can be found by clicking on "Decision Dashboard" tab.

Other U2U team members from Purdue who helped develop "AgClimate View" and "Corn Growing Degree Day" are agricultural economists Otto Doering and Ben Gramig; Indiana State Climatologist Dev Niyogi; Carol Song, director of scientific solutions for Information Technology at Purdue; and U2U project manager Melissa Widhalm. 

In addition to Purdue, U2U project partners are Iowa State University, Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, High Plains Regional Climate Center, Midwestern Regional Climate Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center.