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Unrealized Potential: A Review of Perceptions and Use of Weather and Climate Information in Agricultural Decision Making

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  • 1 Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
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Abstract

This article reviews research on agricultural decision makers’ use and perceptions of weather and climate information and decision support tools (DSTs) conducted in the United States, Australia, and Canada over the past 30 years. Forty–seven relevant articles, with locations as diverse as Australian rangelands and the southeastern United States, ranging in focus from corn to cattle, were identified. NVivo 9 software was used to code research methods, type of climate information explored, barriers to broader use of weather information, common themes, and conclusions from each article. Themes in this literature include the role of trusted agricultural advisors in the use of weather information, farmers’ management of weather risks, and potential agricultural adaptations that could increase resilience to weather and climate variability. While use of weather and climate information and DSTs for agriculture has increased in developed countries, these resources are still underutilized. Reasons for low use and reduced usefulness highlighted in this literature are perceptions of low forecast accuracy; forecasts presented out of context, reducing farmers’ ability to apply them; short forecast lead times; inflexible management and operations that limit the adaptability of a farm; and greater concern with nonweather risks (such as regulation or market fluctuation). The authors’ main recommendation from reviewing this literature is that interdisciplinary and participatory processes involving farmers and advisors have the potential to improve use of weather and climate DSTs. The authors highlight important gaps revealed by this review, and suggest ways to improve future research on these topics.

Corresponding author address: Amber Saylor Mase, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, 95 Marsteller St., West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: saylora@purdue.edu

Abstract

This article reviews research on agricultural decision makers’ use and perceptions of weather and climate information and decision support tools (DSTs) conducted in the United States, Australia, and Canada over the past 30 years. Forty–seven relevant articles, with locations as diverse as Australian rangelands and the southeastern United States, ranging in focus from corn to cattle, were identified. NVivo 9 software was used to code research methods, type of climate information explored, barriers to broader use of weather information, common themes, and conclusions from each article. Themes in this literature include the role of trusted agricultural advisors in the use of weather information, farmers’ management of weather risks, and potential agricultural adaptations that could increase resilience to weather and climate variability. While use of weather and climate information and DSTs for agriculture has increased in developed countries, these resources are still underutilized. Reasons for low use and reduced usefulness highlighted in this literature are perceptions of low forecast accuracy; forecasts presented out of context, reducing farmers’ ability to apply them; short forecast lead times; inflexible management and operations that limit the adaptability of a farm; and greater concern with nonweather risks (such as regulation or market fluctuation). The authors’ main recommendation from reviewing this literature is that interdisciplinary and participatory processes involving farmers and advisors have the potential to improve use of weather and climate DSTs. The authors highlight important gaps revealed by this review, and suggest ways to improve future research on these topics.

Corresponding author address: Amber Saylor Mase, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, 95 Marsteller St., West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: saylora@purdue.edu
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