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Building weather resilience for a stronger 2020

Weather has always been one of the most variable factors in farming, but 2019 has been an extreme example. Heavy rains. Flooding. Storms. Tornadoes. While this year’s growing season has been anything but typical, there are valuable lessons to learn in preparation for a successful 2020.

With climate and weather trends continuously evolving, there are actionable strategies and tools to help build resilience against weather extremes next year and into the future.

Resilience-building strategies:

1. Expect extremes.

“This spring was extreme, but it certainly fits the trend,” said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University Extension. “Farmers can go into next year thinking about 2019 as an example of the types of conditions we see in all long-term trends moving toward with the understanding that more of these events are expected in the future.”

2. Use long-range weather forecasts.

“Looking at short-range weather doesn’t offer much help when making proactive management decisions,” said Noah Freeman, Digital Ag Technical Lead at AgReliant Genetics. “You need to look at long-term patterns and climate trends to determine the best windows for planting and harvest. This also helps identify potential issues before they arise so you can implement management strategies and mitigate issues early on. For example, if it’s a cold spring, you might think about using different seed treatments than normal. If a wet, warm June or July is predicted, you may consider extra fungicide applications to get ahead of disease development. There are a number of management decisions like this you can start thinking about earlier when using long-range weather forecasts.”

3. Implement conservation strategies that strengthen soils.

“A lot of the actionable steps being taken for improved water quality and soil health are also good strategies for building resilience to weather trends which, in general, is more water. For example, there are a lot of farmers who have added tile to control water in periods of heavy rainfall. Cover crops and no-till also improve soil structure and stability, which helps to build resilience to extreme rainfall and wet conditions,” Wilson said.

4. Improve in-field efficiencies.

“As you’re considering weather trends, look for windows of opportunity. We’re looking at narrower and narrower windows for critical times like spring planting, so identify optimal windows early and be prepared to maximize that limited timeframe,” Freeman said.

Tools and Technologies:

  1. Ohio Applicator Forecast uses a runoff risk model to help nutrient applicators identify times when the weather risk for applying is low. Created by the National Weather Service, this tool uses precipitation, temperature and snowmelt data to estimate the amount of water in each area. Those factors are then combined with soil characteristics to determine how much should soak into the ground and how much should flow over the surface.
  2. Field Application Resource Monitor (FARM) is a real-time and historical climate information tool used to determine fertilizer and manure application timing based on precipitation forecasts. FARM also utilizes a database of historical forecasts, allowing users to search and compare previous dates.
  3. Midwest Climate Hub is an online resource created by the USDA to provide growers with science-based, region-specific information and technologies for climate-informed decision-making. Their Adaptation Workbook is a popular tool that provides users with a flexible, logical process for developing and implementing a custom adaptation plan to help achieve management objectives in the face of a changing climate.

Find more tips for navigating future weather challenges here.

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