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Tsegaye Tadesse, Deborah Bathke, Nicole Wall, Jacob Petr, and Tonya Haigh
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Tsegaye Tadesse, Tonya Haigh, Nicole Wall, Andualem Shiferaw, Ben Zaitchik, Shimelis Beyene, Getachew Berhan, and Jacob Petr
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Jason A. Otkin, Tonya Haigh, Anthony Mucia, Martha C. Anderson, and Christopher Hain

Abstract

The evolution of a flash drought event, characterized by a period of rapid drought intensification, is assessed using standard drought monitoring datasets and on-the-ground reports obtained via a written survey of agricultural stakeholders after the flash drought occurred. The flash drought impacted agricultural production across a five-state region centered on the Black Hills of South Dakota during the summer of 2016. The survey asked producers to estimate when certain drought impacts, ranging from decreased soil moisture to plant stress and diminished water resources, first occurred on their land. The geographic distribution and timing of the survey responses were compared to the U.S. Drought Monitor and to datasets depicting anomalies in evapotranspiration, precipitation, and soil moisture. Overall, the survey responses showed that this event was a multifaceted drought that caused a variety of impacts across the region. Comparisons of the survey reports to the drought monitoring datasets revealed that the topsoil moisture dataset provided the earliest warning of drought development, but at the expense of a high false alarm rate. Anomalies in evapotranspiration were closely aligned to the survey reports of plant stress and also provided a more focused depiction of where the worst drought conditions were located. This study provides evidence that qualitative reports of drought impacts obtained via written surveys provide valuable information that can be used to assess the accuracy of high-resolution drought monitoring datasets.

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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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Mary Noel, Deborah Bathke, Brian Fuchs, Denise Gutzmer, Tonya Haigh, Michael Hayes, Markéta Poděbradská, Claire Shield, Kelly Smith, and Mark Svoboda

Abstract

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), a weekly map depicting severity and spatial extent of drought, is used to communicate about drought in state and federal decision-making, and as a trigger in response policies, including the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars for agricultural financial relief in the United States annually. An accompanying classification table helps interpret the map and includes a column of possible impacts associated with each level of drought severity. However, the column describing potential drought impacts is generalized for the entire United States. To provide more geographically specific interpretation of drought, state and regionally specific drought impact classification tables were developed by linking impacts chronicled in the Drought Impact Reporter (DIR) to USDM severity levels across the United States and Puerto Rico and identifying recurrent themes at each level. After creating state-level tables of impacts observed for each level of drought, a nationwide survey was administered to drought experts and decision-makers (n = 89), including the USDM authors, to understand whether the tables provided accurate descriptions of drought impacts in their state. Seventy-six percent of respondents indicated the state table was an acceptable or good characterization of drought impacts for their respective state. This classification scheme was created with a reproducible qualitative methodology that used past observations to identify themes in drought impacts across multiple sectors to concisely describe expected impacts at different levels of drought in each state.

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Tonya Haigh, Vikram Koundinya, Chad Hart, Jenna Klink, Maria Lemos, Amber Saylor Mase, Linda Prokopy, Ajay Singh, Dennis Todey, and Melissa Widhalm

Abstract

The pathways between climate information producers and agricultural decision-makers are evolving and becoming more complex, with information increasingly flowing through both public and for-profit intermediaries and organizations. This study characterizes the various channels of climate information flow, as well as the needs and preferences of information intermediaries and end users. We use data from a 2016 survey of farmers and agricultural advisors in 12 U.S. Corn Belt states to evaluate perceptions of climate information and its usability. Our findings reinforce the view that much weather and climate information is not reaching farmers explicitly but also suggest that farmers may not be aware of the extent to which the information is packaged with seed, input, or management recommendations. For farmers who are using weather and climate information, private services such as subscription and free tools and applications (apps) are as influential as publicly provided services. On the other hand, we find that agricultural advisors are engaged users and transformers of both public and private sources of weather/climate information and that they choose sources of information based on qualities of salience and credibility. Our results suggest that climate information providers could improve the use of information in agriculture by engaging advisors and farmers as key stakeholders and by strategically employing multiple delivery pathways through the private and public sectors.

Open access
Kelly Helm Smith, Mark E. Burbach, Michael J. Hayes, Patrick E. Guinan, Andrew J. Tyre, Brian Fuchs, Tonya Haigh, and Mark D. Svoboda

Abstract

Drought-related decision-making and policy should go beyond numeric hydrometeorological data to incorporate information on how drought affects people, livelihoods, and ecosystems. The effects of drought are nested within environmental and human systems, and relevant data may not exist in readily accessible form. For example, drought may reduce forage growth, compounded by both late-season freezes and management decisions. An effort to gather crowdsourced drought observations in Missouri in 2018 yielded a much higher number of observations than did previous related efforts. Here we examine 1) the interests, circumstances, history, and recruitment messaging that coincided to produce a high number of reports in a short time; 2) whether and how information from volunteer observers was useful to state decision-makers and to U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) authors; and 3) potential for complementary use of stakeholder and citizen science reports in assessing trustworthiness of volunteer-provided information. State officials and the Cattlemen’s Association made requests for reports, clearly linked to improving the accuracy of the USDM and the related financial benefit. Well-timed requests provided a focus for people’s energy and a reason to invest their time. State officials made use of the dense spatial coverage that observers provided. USDM authors were very cautious about a surge of reports coinciding closely with financial incentives linked to the Livestock Forage Disaster program. An after-the-fact comparison between stakeholder reports and parallel citizen science reports suggests that the two could be complementary, with potential for developing protocols to facilitate real-time use.

Open access
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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