This paper reports some results of a descriptive study of the value of weather information used by fruit growers in the Yakima Valley of central Washington to decide when to protect their orchards against freezing temperatures. Specifically, the study provides data concerning the decision-making procedures of individual orchardists, the growers' use of weather information including frost (i.e., minimum temperature) forecasts, and the dimensions of the value of such forecasts.
Results from the descriptive study regarding the orchardists' information-processing and decision-making procedures are compared with the procedures included in a previous prescriptive study of the fruit-frost problem in the same geographical area (Katz et al., 1982). The prescriptive study employed a dynamic decision-making model and yielded estimates of the economic value of frost forecasts under the assumption (inter alia) that the orchardists' decisions were based solely on these forecasts. On the other hand, the descriptive study with which the current paper is primarily concerned indicates that growers use temperature and dew point observations available after the frost forecast has been issued, as well as the frost forecasts themselves, to make frost protection decisions. Furthermore, while the results of the descriptive study show that the grower makes a series of decisions to protect or not to protect during the night, the model assumed that an irreversible commitment is made early in the night. The results of an initial effort to modify the original prescriptive model in accordance with the descriptive findings to obtain more realistic estimates of the value of frost forecasts also are reported in this paper.
Some implications of this study for the further development of prescriptive models of the decision-making process in the fruit-frost context and in other weather-information-sensitive contexts are discussed.
1 National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
2 Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331.