Useful to Usable                            June 2013
Transforming Climate Variability and Change Information
for Cereal Crop Producers in the North Central Regionbacktop
Progress Timeline  |  Catching Up  |  Reaching Out  |  Collaboration Corner
Greetings from the Project Director


Dear Friends,

This is an exciting time for U2U as we start developing and piloting our decision support tools. This year's extreme rains and flooding following last year's drought are reminding us of the importance of our task - developing tools to help corn producers adapt to an increasingly variable climate.


We recently had over 40 team and advisory committee members gather in Davenport, Iowa to inventory last year's progress and outline this year's activities. After three days with this dynamic and diverse group I feel energized by the excellent progress made on decision tool development, crop and climate modeling research, and stakeholder engagement.


I'm also encouraged by the growing level of interest that local farmers and ag advisors are showing in our climate tools. At a recent focus group one participant asked "how soon can we start using this?" We've also been invited to speak at several upcoming events with Extension educators, CCAs, and conservation specialists. Direct interaction with the ag community is essential for building usable tools that actually get used, so we are always on the look out for opportunities to interact. Thanks for your continued interest in our project!




Dr. Linda Stalker Prokopy, U2U Project Director

Progress Timeline
June Progress Update


Quarterly Progress Report

Year 3 of the U2U project is now officially underway!

The Objective 1 Working Group has completed historical yield simulations for 20 locations using 3 crop models, and they're now running simulations on a gridded domain across the entire Corn Belt. Research is also underway to quantify the costs of adapting Midwestern agriculture to predicted climate change impacts.


In Objective 2, a network analysis is in progress looking at communication patterns between farmers and their advisors in two Michigan watersheds. Other Objective 2 and 3 updates are highlighted below in "Catching Up."


Our progress timeline is a great way to stay up-to-date on upcoming project milestones. Click on the graphic to download a full-size PDF.

Catching Up


Farmers and Advisors Get a Sneak Peak at U2U Tools

During February, we hosted six focus groups with farmers and agricultural advisors in Indiana and Nebraska to showcase two new decisions tools, one providing access to historical climate data and crop yields and another focused on applying Growing Degree Day (GDD) information to cropping decisions. We received valuable feedback on improving tool function, and our stakeholder groups have been invited to re-evaluate these tools during our upcoming summer focus group series. 

New Survey of Ag Advisors

During March 2013, the Objective 2 Working Group surveyed agricultural advisors about their use of climate information, concern about climate impacts, and beliefs about climate change. This study replicates last year's U2U advisor survey (see Prokopy et al. 2013), which was conducted prior to the 2012 drought. Together, these surveys provide a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the drought on climate-related attitudes and risk perceptions. Preliminary analysis shows that the 2012 drought heightened concern for some climate impacts, but it did not affect beliefs about climate change. Additional results will be available later this year.

Reaching Out

Newly Designed U2U Poster 

Jeff Andresen presented the newly updated U2U poster at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) annual meeting in Los Angeles, California April 9-13, 2013. Natalie Umphlett also presented the U2U poster at the 11th Annual Climate Prediction Applications Science (CPAS) Workshop April 23-25, 2013 in Logan, Utah. The poster can be downloaded here


 19th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management

 Linda Prokopy, Stuart Carlton, Patrick Freeland, Amber Mase, and Adam  Wilke each presented research results from various U2U survey efforts at  the  19th International Symposium on Society and Resource  Management (ISSRM) in Estes Park, CO June 4-8, 2013. You can view  their abstracts here

Collaboration Corner

Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP) is a USDA-funded initiative seeking to increase resilience and adaptability of Midwest agriculture to more volatile weather patterns by identifying farmer practices and policies that increase sustainability while meeting crop demand. 


The U2U team has worked closely with CSCAP members over the past few years on a number of occasions. Our most notable collaboration was on the 2012 corn producer survey, an unprecedented look at cropping decisions and use of climate information in the Midwest (see Arbuckle et al. 2013). We are also working with a team of CSCAP extension educators to pilot our decision tools and share them with a wider audience. 


In a new development, discussions are now underway to develop a jointly managed blog where farmers and scientists across the Corn Belt can learn about and discuss cutting-edge farm management strategies, weather and climate conditions/impacts, and much more. Watch for this blog to become available later this summer. 


For more information about CSCAP please visit http://www.sustainablecorn.org/

Researcher Spotlight

Dr. Jim Angel has been the Illinois State Climatologist since 1997. He began working at the Illinois State Water Survey in 1984 and received his PhD in Geography from the University of Illinois in 1996. His areas of interest include drought, extreme rainfall events, Great Lakes storms, past and potential future climate change, and climate tool development. As state climatologist he works with a wide range of users, including farmers, teachers, engineers, state and local officials, and the media. One thing he has learned over the years is that there's never a dull moment in Illinois when it comes to weather and climate.


As a U2U co-project director, Jim participates in developing agroclimate decision support tools and conducting focus groups with farmers and agricultural advisors in the Midwest. He also lends his expertise on various climate and crop modeling activities.


Growing up in Missouri, Jim was always interested in the weather. He came from a long line of farmers from western Illinois so the weather was always a topic of conversation in the family. Another family tradition that he continues is gardening. He is a history buff, partially inspired by growing up a few miles away from the site of a small Civil War battle. Jim lives with his wife in Champaign, Illinois and has two grown sons in town as well.


You can follow Jim, and keep up-to-date on Illinois weather and climate, on his blog: http://climateillinois.wordpress.com/.

Climate in the Corn Belt

By Dennis Todey, South Dakota State Climatologist, U2U team member


After very serious drought issues throughout the Corn Belt during the 2012 growing season, the opposite issue has impacted much of the region this season. Planting and development were delayed compared to average in central parts of the Corn Belt because of wet and cool fields.  Drier areas in the western and eastern Corn Belt allowed for better planting progress despite cooler temperatures. The planting progress, while delayed, seemed even worse compared to the record early planting progress for corn in the spring of 2011, when warm and dry conditions pervaded the Corn Belt from March onward. 

Much of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri as well as western Indiana, southern Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin received over 150% of average precipitation during the spring.  Embedded in some of these areas were spots with over 200% (more than double) of average precipitation.  State rankings of precipitation were top 10 wettest from North Dakota across to Michigan and extending south to Iowa and Illinois. Iowa had the wettest spring on record.  


Rankings of spring temperature (March-May) were top ten coldest from the Dakotas to Wisconsin, though Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and eastern Corn Belt were not as extreme. Areas of eastern Indiana and Ohio actually had near average temperatures. 


If there is any consolation, it could have been worse. If this spring had happened after a particularly wet fall where soil moisture profiles had been completely refilled, conditions (and flooding) would have been more problematic.  Because of the dryness last year there was ample storage in the soil moisture profile and in surface water bodies especially in western parts of the Corn Belt.



Additional Resources:

Current Corn Belt precipitation maps can be found at: http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/maps/current/index.php or http://mrcc.isws.illinois.edu/cliwatch/watch.htmState and division rankings can be found at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/maps.php. 

Climate Quiz

June Climate Quiz

Question #1: What percent of corn farmers in the Midwestern U.S. believe that climate change is occurring?

Question #2: Having the right conditions for conducting field work (i.e. no rainfall, unsaturated soils, etc.) is necessary for successful crop production. When comparing the spring planting period in 1980-1994 to 1995-2010, the average number of days per week suitable for field work in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa has: 


Question 1
Dr. Benjamin Gramig, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University      
Question 2: Arbuckle, J.G., L.S. Prokopy, T. Haigh, J. Hobbs, T. Knoot, C. L. Knutson, A. Loy, A.S. Mase, J. McGuire, L.W. Morton, J. Tyndall, and M. Widhalm. 2013. "Corn Belt Farmers and Climate Change: Beliefs, Perceived Risk, and Support for Action." Climatic Change Letters,117(4): 943-950. Available online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-013-0707-6.   
Upcoming Events

Midwest and Great Plains Drought Update Webinar

June 20, 2013 2 PM (EST)


The NOAA Central Region office, along with key regional partners (National Drought Mitigation Center, State Climatologists, USDA and USFWS) are holding monthly webinars on the 3rd Thursday of each month to improve communication about regional drought and climate conditions, impacts, and outlooks. Information on wildfires, streamflow, snowpack and other climate variables are discussed.  In addition, outlook information from official NOAA forecasts is detailed.  These webinars are intended for a broad range of participants including local and state government, federal agencies, NGOs, tribes, academics, students and private interests. 


Register here

38th Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC)

July 8-11, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri


Several U2U team members will be attending the AASC annual meeting where updated information about U2U decision support tools will be presented. 


For more information visit the AASC website: http://www.muconf.missouri.edu/AASC/index.html



U2U Team Photo  
2013 Annual Meeting Photo
About Us: Useful to Usable (U2U) is a multi-institution research and extension project focused on improving the resilience and profitability of farms in the North Central U.S. amid a more variable and changing climate. Through the development and dissemination of decision support tools, resource materials, and training, we strive to transform existing climate information into actionable knowledge for more effective decision making.  Support for this project is provided by USDA-NIFA grant number 2011-68002-30220. 
CONTACT US:   Melissa Widhalm, Project Manager                                     Click here to join our mailing list. 

This project is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68002-30220 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.