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


Dear Friends,


As the growing season slowly starts coming to a close, I've heard many people talking about whether or not the corn will freeze before reaching maturity this year and asking how the delayed spring planting might play out. While I don't have all the answers, I can tell you that we've been developing a tool with just these sorts of questions in mind. Final testing is currently under way in advance of our first limited release of the Growing Degree Day (GDD) Tool later this year and we're hoping to gain some valuable and timely feedback given the current weather and crop conditions. Once our GDD Tool becomes available on our website, we will certainly let you know.


In other news, we recently teamed up with SustainableCorn.org to bring you AgriClimate Connection. This blog is an interactive forum where you can learn about and discuss the latest research and current issues surrounding Corn Belt agricultural production and climate. Please visit the site, subscribe to updates and join the conversation! 




Dr. Linda Stalker Prokopy, U2U Project Director

Progress Timeline
Sept. Update


Quarterly Progress Report

With historical crop yield simulations complete, the Objective 1 Working Group is now incorporating future climate scenarios into several crop models. This exercise will help us understand how future climate patterns might affect Midwestern agriculture and how selected management strategies could increase resilience to climate extremes.


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

Catching Up


The New and Improved AgClimate4U.org

This summer, the U2U team released the latest version of our project website, AgClimate4U.org. In addition to a new look and easier navigation, the site includes more links to decision resources for Corn Belt ag production, the latest information from our AgriClimate Connection blog and a media center with project videos, factsheets and more. Check it out and let us know what else you'd like to see!


Farmer and Extension Educator Meetings

During July 2013, the U2U Social Science Team hosted two focus groups with farmers in Nebraska and Indiana and a meeting with Extension educators from across the Corn Belt. During these meetings, the team demonstrated several new tools that will provide insight about climate risks for corn production, assist with split nitrogen application decisions and make historical climate and yield data more accessible. The feedback collected was invaluable and has already helped improve these tools. Additional focus groups are scheduled for this fall. 

Reaching Out



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

Several U2U project investigators attended the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Climatologists (AASC) July 8-11, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. During this meeting, Dr. Linda Prokopy provided a U2U project update and a sneak-peak at some of our prototype decision tools.

68th Annual Conference of the Soil and Water Conservation Society 
Jean McGuire, graduate student in the Department of Sociology at Iowa State University, presented a research poster titled "Good farmers in the U.S. Cornbelt" at the 68th International Annual Conference of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, July 21-24, 2013. (Abstract available, p. 133)  


New article in Biogeosciences      

Song,Y., Jain, A.K., and McIsaac,G.F. 2013. "Implementation of Dynamic Crop Growth Processes into a Land Surface Model: Evaluation of Energy, Water and Carbon Fluxes Under Corn and Soybean Rotation" Biogeosciences 10: 9897-9945. 



Worldwide expansion of agriculture is impacting Earth's climate by altering carbon, water and energy fluxes, but climate in turn is impacting crop production. To study this two-way interaction and its impact on seasonal dynamics of carbon, water and energy fluxes, we implemented dynamic crop growth processes into a land surface model, the Integrated Science Assessment Model (ISAM). In particular, we implemented crop specific phenology schemes, which account for light, water, and nutrient stresses while allocating the assimilated carbon to leaf, root, stem and grain pools; dynamic vegetation structure growth, which better simulate the LAI and canopy height; dynamic root distribution processes in the soil layers, which better simulate the root response of soil water uptake and transpiration; and litter fall due to fresh and old dead leaves to better represent the water and energy interception by both stem and brown leaves of the canopy during leaf senescence... Full Abstract


Featured Article in Resource Magazine   

Doering, O. 2013. "Agriculture and climate change: Action instead of argument" Resource Magazine (ASABE), July/Aug 2013.



Irrespective of the ideological battle over climate change and its causes, the agricultural community is already beginning to cope with climate change impacts. While debate continues between most climate scientists on the one hand and denial groups such as the Heartland Institute and the Cato Institute on the other, the agricultural community recognizes that climate change will affect where we grow, what we grow, and how we grow it. Over the last decade, the growing season in the U.S. Upper Midwest has lengthened by five to seven days, and we have observed enough corresponding signals from natural systems to indicate that other important changes are occurring, too. In addition, most climate scientists believe that enough greenhouse gas has accumulated in the atmosphere to sustain and extend the changes we've already seen-warmer winters, reduced snow and snowmelt, longer growing seasons, increased temperatures, and changed rainfall... Full Article

Researcher Spotlight

Dr. Roger Elmore is an Extension Corn Specialist and Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University. He works on developing practical management information for corn growers, and he strives to maintain and increase profitability of farming through environmentally sound production practices. Prior to arriving at Iowa State, Roger spent 24 years at the University of Nebraska focusing largely on cultural practices for irrigated corn and soybean systems.


As a co-investigator on the U2U project Roger provides agronomic expertise to support modeling efforts and data interpretation. Roger also assists with decision tool development by ensuring our resources have practical application and are technically sound.


Roger was born and raised on a grain livestock farm in north-central Illinois, near Princeton. Although he has spent much of his life in the Midwest, following his undergraduate degree Roger lived in Malaysia as a Peace Corps Volunteer where he worked with a crop diversification program in paddy rice-based cropping systems. Roger and his wife, Ann, live in Story City, Iowa and have three children, two children in-law, and three grandsons near Fayetteville Arkansas, and a granddaughter in Longmont Colorado.


For the latest information on Iowa corn production you can follow Roger on Twitter @RogerElmore.

AgriClimate Connection Blog


News and views from the Corn Belt

AgriClimate Connection is an interactive blog where farmers and scientists across the Corn Belt can learn about and discuss cutting-edge farm management strategies, weather and climate conditions and much more. It is jointly-managed by SustainableCorn.org and U2U


July and August Rainfall in Missouri - The Tale of the Haves and Have-Nots

Posted on 8/19/2013 by Pat Guinan

Missouri has experienced some large precipitation disparities this summer, ranging from moderate drought to historic flooding. The disparities have been especially notable in August. Some south central counties have received 15-20 inches... Read more


Corn and Soybean Development in Illinois

Posted on 8/14/2013 by Lynn Laws

Late planting and weather that continues to be cooler than normal has many wondering if the corn and soybean crops will reach maturity and harvest moisture within a reasonable time this fall... Read more


Crop Progress 7-17

Posted on 7/17/2013 by Dennis Todey

The latest crop progress data for corn and beans. In the main Corn Belt 16% of the crop has tasseled compared to the 5 year average of 35%. Obviously early season cold temperatures and late planting are still affecting overall development... Read more


Be sure to subscribe to our blog for the latest updates.  

Climate Quiz

September Climate Quiz

Question #1: Each month NOAA scientists measure, calculate and track global temperatures. For how many consecutive months have we experienced global temperatures above the 20th century average as of July 2013? 

Source: NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) Aug 20, 2013 press release.

Question #2: Based on a 2012 survey of agricultural advisors in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska, what percent of advisors believe that climate change is occurring due to natural changes and/or human activities?

Source: U2U Social Science Research Team


Upcoming Events

Vegetation Impact Program Frost/Freeze Training Webinar

Sept 12, 2013 11 AM (ET)


The Vegetation Impact Program (VIP) is a monitoring, assessment, and networking program hosted by the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The VIP integrates online climate monitoring information, weather and climate outlooks and stakeholder input to provide a suite of resources that can help minimize negative vegetation impacts. This webinar will provide a tour of the VIP website and information about becoming a local contributor.


Register here

Midwest and Great Plains Drought Update Webinar

Sept 19, 2013 2 PM (ET)


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


U2U Team Photo  
U2U Team


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. 

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.