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Amber Saylor Mase and Linda Stalker Prokopy

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.

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Linda Stalker Prokopy, Lois Wright Morton, J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., Amber Saylor Mase, and Adam K. Wilke

Abstract

Understanding U.S. agricultural stakeholder views about the existence of climate change and its causes is central to developing interventions in support of adaptation and mitigation. Results from surveys conducted with six Midwestern stakeholder groups [corn producers, agricultural advisors, climatologists, extension educators, and two different cross-disciplinary teams of scientists funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA–NIFA)] reveal striking differences. Individuals representing these groups were asked in 2011/12 to “select the statement that best reflects your beliefs about climate change.” Three of five answer options included the notion that climate change is occurring but for different reasons (mostly human activities; mostly natural; more or less equally by natural and human activities). The last two options were “there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether climate change is occurring or not” and “climate change is not occurring.” Results reveal that agricultural and climate scientists are more likely to believe that climate change is mostly due to human activities (50%–67%) than farmers and advisors (8%–12%). Almost a quarter of farmers and agricultural advisors believe the source of climate change is mostly natural causes, and 22%–31% state that there is not sufficient evidence to know with certainty whether it is occurring or not. This discrepancy in beliefs creates challenges for communicating climate science to agricultural stakeholders in ways that encourage adaptation and mitigation. Results suggest that engagement strategies that reduce threats to worldviews and increase public dialogue could make climate information more relevant to stakeholder groups with different belief structures.

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Tonya Haigh, Lois Wright Morton, Maria Carmen Lemos, Cody Knutson, Linda Stalker Prokopy, Yun Jia Lo, and Jim Angel

Abstract

Although agricultural production faces chronic stress associated with extreme precipitation events, high temperatures, drought, and shifts in climate conditions, adoption of climate information into agricultural decision making has been relatively limited. Agricultural advisors have been shown to play important roles as information intermediaries between scientists and farmers, brokering, translating, and adding value to agronomic and economic information of use in agricultural management decision making. Yet little is known about the readiness of different types of agricultural advisors to use weather and climate information to help their clients manage risk under increasing climate uncertainty. More than 1700 agricultural advisors in four midwestern states (Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan) completed a web-based survey during the spring of 2012 about their use of weather and climate information, public or private sector employment, and roles as information intermediaries in three advising specializations: agronomic, conservation, and financial. Key findings reveal that advisors who specialize in providing agronomic information are positively inclined toward acting as weather and climate information intermediaries, based on influence and willingness to use climate information in providing many types of operational and tactical advice. Advisors who provide conservation advice appear to be considering weather and climate information when providing tactical and strategic land-use advice, but advisors who provide financial advice seem less inclined to act as climate information intermediaries. These findings highlight opportunities to increase the capacity of different types of advisors to enable them to be effective weather and climate information intermediaries.

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Linda Stalker Prokopy, Tonya Haigh, Amber Saylor Mase, Jim Angel, Chad Hart, Cody Knutson, Maria Carmen Lemos, Yun-Jia Lo, Jean McGuire, Lois Wright Morton, Jennifer Perron, Dennis Todey, and Melissa Widhalm

Abstract

As the climate in the midwestern United States becomes increasingly variable because of global climate change, it is critical to provide tools to the agricultural community to ensure adaptability and profitability of agricultural cropping systems. When used by farmers and their advisors, agricultural decision support tools can reduce uncertainty and risks in the planning, operation, and management decisions of the farm enterprise. Agricultural advisors have historically played a key role in providing information and guidance in these decisions. However, little is known about what these advisors know or think about weather and climate information and their willingness to incorporate this type of information into their advice to farmers. In this exploratory study, a diverse set of professionals who advise corn growers, including government, nonprofit, for-profit, and agricultural extension personnel, were surveyed in four states in the midwestern Corn Belt. Results from the survey indicate that advisors are more influenced by current weather conditions and 1–7-day forecasts than longer-term climate outlooks. Advisors predominantly consider historical weather trends and/or forecasts in their advice to farmers on short-term operational decisions versus longer-term tactical and strategic decisions. The main conclusion from this analysis is that opportunities exist to further engage the advisor community on weather and climate issues and, through them, the farmers who are managing the land.

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