The demand for world agriculture output will grow exponentially overcoming decades due to world population growth and expanding world economies. At the same time, the agriculture sector will be impacted by changes in climate that will challenge the productivity of the world’s agriculture resources. To meet this expanding world demand, agriculture must become more adept at anticipating climate changes and variations and finding ways of adapting to these changes. Below is a discussion of the needs of farmers and agribusinesses for quality information relating to climate predictions.
Climate prediction information has the potential to reduce the impact of adverse weather events. This will occur because the advance notice will allow decision makers the opportunity to implement plans to minimize the impact of adverse events and find opportunities within favorable events.
Climate prediction is in its infancy. However, the payoff from the research and development of reliable climate prediction information can be substantial for the agricultural industry. This is especially important considering the increased frequency of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing and will experience in the Midwest in coming decades.
Below is a discussion of the ways in which climate prediction information can be utilized by crop and livestock producers and agribusinesses to adapt to and minimize the impact of changing weather patterns and adverse weather events.
Climate prediction information for crops
Farmers grow crops on the field scale (individual farm acres impacted by field-scale climate factors) but sell crops into an international market(impacted by global-scale climatic factors). Local climate predictions improve crop production planning and subsequently impact individual farmer yields. Global and regional scale climate factors impact the prices farmers receive for their crop as well as their decisions of what crops to grow.
Climate predictions of monthly, seasonal and yearly weather influence farmer decisions that are important to the individual growing season of a crop. Multi-year and decadal predictions of weather influence farmer investment decisions that can span several growing seasons.
To maximize the value of climate prediction information for decision making the information needs to be combined and provided with other environmental information such as ground cover,soil type, soil organic matter, soil radiation, soil temperature, soil moisture and long-term drought conditions. This integration of environmental information will help farmers and agribusinesses utilize the information more effectively in decision making.
Improve crop production planning --Climate predictions of seasonal weather patterns (e.g., drought, heatwaves, cool planting season) help farmers decide which crops are most likely to flourish in the predicted growing season. This will impact their decisions of which crops to grow and how much of each crop to grow on their farms and whether to purchase crop insurance. This is especially relevant in regions of the country where farmers traditionally grow a variety of crops. In areas of the country where crop mix does not change, climate predictions help farmers decide on the relative proportions of each crop to grow.
Improve production input planning --Farmers purchase a variety of crop inputs (e.g., fertilizers,pesticides, fungicides) that are utilized during various times of the growing seasons. Timely climate prediction information can provide useful information for the type, amount, timing and type of application of crop inputs.
An outline of the various production inputs used in corn production is presented in Figure 1. The figure designates the general time period during the year when purchase and application decisions are made by farmers. For example, nitrogen fertilizer can be purchased and applied several times during the year but usually applied in the spring before planting or in the fall after harvest. Conversely,crop insurance must be purchased in later winter, well before planting.
Climate prediction information can help farmers choose the proper crop variety for the expected growing season weather conditions. For example, the maturity of the corn variety may be impacted by the expected length of the growing season.
Climate predictions can help farmers choose the crop insurance policies and products needed to cover the yield and price risk expected during the growing season. Because the deadline for purchasing insurance occurs before the growing season begins, climate prediction information can be extremely helpful.
Climate predictions can help farmers prepare a more accurate fertilizer application plan for the growing season. Nitrogen fertilizer timing of application can be more accurately designed with information about expected temperatures and precipitation during various periods of the growing season.