Todey talks climate at DakotaFest | TSLN.com

Todey talks climate at DakotaFest

Trying to outguess Mother Nature is an exercise in futility, but for farmers and ranchers, success or failure depends largely on an uncontrollable variable — the weather. While Mother Nature can't be controlled, today's producers can now add some new, innovative tools to their toolboxes to make the best management decisions for the operation based on climate conditions for the area.

Dennis Todey, South Dakota State University Extension state climatologist, and Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension field specialist, explained these new climate resources for South Dakota agriculturalists at the 2014 DakotaFest in Mitchell, SD, on Aug. 21.

"Our goal is to help producers make better long-term plans on what, when and where to plant, and also how to manage crops for maximum yields and minimum environmental damage," said Todey.

One of the tools Todey demonstrated was AgClimate View, which can be accessed at agclimate4u.org. This tool is a convenient way to access customized historical climate and crop yield data for the U.S. Corn Belt. Users can view graphs of monthly temperature and precipitation, plot corn and soybean yield trends, and compare climate and yields over the past 30 years.

"Users can view plots of local temperature and precipitation variations that date as far back as 1980," said Todey. "It can also track county crop yields and trends and consider crop yields in the context of temperature and precipitation. Used in tandem with other decision resources, AgClimate View can help you find long-term correlations between climate trends and yields, while helping you put you make management decisions."

Another tool is called Corn Growing Degree Days (Corn GDD), which tracks real-time and historic GDD accumulations, assesses spring and fall frost risk, and guides decisions related to planting, harvest and seed selection.

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"This tool puts current conditions into a 30-year historical perspective and offers trends and projections," said Todey. "We can use this as a planning tool by looking at when you've passed freeze dates in the spring or to plan when you will need to harvest in the fall before winter weather arrives."

Applicable for both crop producers and livestock owners, another tool, called the Climate Patterns Viewer, shows users how global climate patterns like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO) have historically affected local climate conditions. This information can help producers determine planting and harvest time or best times to work cattle or wean calves, for example.

"Users can view a historical look (1981-2010) at how ENSO and AO have affected local climate conditions, as well as explore the relationship between precipitation and temperature with AO and ENSO."

For example, the Climate Patterns Viewer shows users that almost every area of the state is below average for precipitation this summer.

"The seasonal outlook is showing cooler than average temperatures for the season," said Edwards, looking at the information provided in the Climate Patterns Viewer. "We will have cooler temperatures the next couple of weeks, with some chances for rain, but it should be back to average temperatures and rainfall in September. El Niño is a pretty strong player in the three-month outlook."

SDSU Extension offers a wide range of tools and information at igrow.org. Another website worth checking out is http://climate/sdstate.edu/mobile.

"This is a mobile website where you can access live data on your smartphone," said Edwards. "The information is updated every 10-15 minutes. There are about 15 stations across the state. On the site, you can look at the previous seven-day summary, precipitation, wind, soil temperature, and forecast form the National Weather Service."

CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network) is another tool that receives daily precipitation reports that is located in all 50 states. By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive website, CoCoRaHS aims to provide high-quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.

"It just takes five minutes each day to report precipitation," said Todey. "It's easy to register and fun to use. Buy one of the CoCoRaHS rain gauges and report your moisture at either 5 a.m. or 9 a.m. daily."

On Aug. 24, more than 7,300 users reported to the site, giving viewers a more accurate picture of the precipitation for an area.

Producers can also follow weather and climate updates on Facebook (SDSU Climate) or Twitter — @SDSUClimate, as well as iGrow radio.