New Online CropClimate Tool Can Aid Preplant Decisions

New Online CropClimate Tool Can Aid Preplant Decisions January 22, 2016

Farmers can control many variables in their operation, but they can’t control the climate, a leading factor in crop yield variability from year to year.

Home screen for UNL's CropClimate.org
Figure 1. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed CropClimate, a new online tool to provide farmers with location specific climate projections to aid in decision-making for the coming crop season.  The tool is available at CropClimate.org.

Pulldown menus in CropClimate.org allow users to select tools
Figure 2. Drop-down menus from the home page make it easy to select the information tool needed. Video tutorials at CropClimate.org offer step-by-step guides for using each of the tools.
CropClimate.org freeze forecast tool
Figure 3. Select time periods and climate information category (for example, Temperature Threshold) to see projections based on !100 years of historical records. In crop related categories, information is available for 17 crops.

CropClimate.org, a new online tool developed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provides valuable information to enhance farmer decision-making and reduce the impact of this climate variability. It is intended to support pre-planting decisions based on soil conditions and the climate phase forecast (for example La Niña or El Niño) for the upcoming growing season. The tool was developed by Gui Baigorria, assistant professor in the UNL School of Natural Resources and Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.

CropClimate allows you to select from 11 tools in three categories:

  • climate,
  • crop, and
  • crop/climate. 

Tools and information in each category provide probabilities or projections for this growing season based on historical data for a given climate scenario. All of the tools are available for Nebraska and most tools are available for the entire U.S. and select foreign countries. Please remember these are probabilities based on seasonal forecasts, so use accordingly.

Climate Category

The Climate category includes tools to select the time period and threshold of interest for freeze and heat stress events, as well as the monthly seasonal forecast for temperatures and precipitation. Tools include:

  • Rainfall Amounts: Forecasted total rainfall amount for the selected month and the probability for that to happen.
  • Rainfall Days: Forecasted number of rainy days per month for the selected month and the probability for that to happen.
  • Maximum Temperature: Forecasted maximum temperature for the selected months and the probability for that to happen.
  • Minimum Temperature: Forecasted minimum temperature for the selected months and the probability for that to happen.
  • Freeze Risk Probability: Probability that a given temperature threshold will be reached during the selected date range.
  • Heat Risk Probability: Probability that a given temperature threshold will be reached during the selected date range.

Crops Category

The Crops category provides the county level crop response (irrigated or rainfed) to the selected climate phase and the projected yield forecast using this season's climate forecast. Information is available for 17 Nebraska crops: corn grain, corn silage, soybean, winter wheat, spring wheat, peanCrops category tools include:

  • County Yield Estimate Time Series: Allows you to select from your crop and track the yield of that crop for approximately 100 years. You can select irrigated or rainfed and eliminate the “technology” factor to see yield fluctuations due to climatic conditions.
  • Crop Yield Forecast: Forecasted yield of the selected crop having above or below neutral yields based on a given climate scenario (termed a teleconnection index phase in the tool). The tool allows you to select your crop and irrigated or rainfed systems to forecast yield.

Crop/Climate Category

This category combines climate information and crop response to given climate conditions. Crop/Climate tools include:
  • Best Planting Date: The user selects their field on a map on the screen. The program takes all of the soil, crop, and current climate forecast combinations and provides the probability of higher than 66% and lower than 33% yields from the historical yield records based on planting date. The user changes cultivars to select the best cultivar to plant at his/her specific climate and soil type.
  • Growing Degree Days Forecast: Forecasts cumulative growing degree days for the selected date range and temperature thresholds for a given location.
  • Chill Unit Forecast: Forecasts cumulative chill units for the selected date range and temperature thresholds for the location.

At CropClimate.org users can find video tutorials showing the step-by-step process for using these tools. Although a subscription is optional, it is recommended to get free news and updates from the site. Producers who want to volunteer to collaborate on CropClimate research to implement more crops and varieties are welcome. Just e-mail Gui Baigorria to participate in research, share your ideas, or suggest new tools.

In the next few weeks, we will be releasing the remaining tools for Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota. Other states are coming after that.

Tyler Williams, Extension Educator
Gui Baigorria, Assistant Professor, Agronomy and Horticulture