Climate Data Can Help With Crop Management Decisions

Several websites now offer free climate data for farmers.

Published on: Jan 23, 2014

Farmers have a new set of free tools to help them make crop decisions.

University of Missouri Extension agricultural economist Ray Massey and Pat Guinan, climatologist for MU Extension Commercial Agriculture, are collaborating with participants across the nation to make information easily available.

Massey and Guinan recently presented at MU's Crop Management Conference in Columbia.

The websites are important because access to historical climate data helps farm operations that depend on favorable temperatures and precipitation patterns, Massey said.

New tools available

In October, the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) began offering online data free of charge, Guinan said. Previously, much of the climate center's data archive was available only by subscription.

WEATHER READY: A number of websites provide access to historical climate data that can help farmers review temperatures and precipitation patterns before making planting decisions.
WEATHER READY: A number of websites provide access to historical climate data that can help farmers review temperatures and precipitation patterns before making planting decisions.

The MRCC is a cooperative program of the Illinois State Water Survey and the National Climatic Data Center. Information is available here. MRCC's Application Tools Environment, or "cli-MATE," offers data with easy-to-read visuals for free. Customizable charts include growing season statistics, frost/freeze probabilities and information on degree days.

The Vegetation Impact Program (VIP) monitors and assesses real-time information from MRCC on the same website. MU collaborates with other universities and agencies across the United States on this site. Data from VIP helps producers with frost and freeze guidance, stress degree days and the Keetch-Byram Drought Index. Information on chilling hours is being developed.

MU Extension also offers Horizon Point. There are rainfall runoff estimators, weed scouting aids, insect scouting aids, fall nitrogen application charts and planting-depth soil temperature, among the many offerings. Users can subscribe to receive advisories by email.

Missouri's Mesonet presents information from weather stations in 30 locations, 20 of which are real-time. A new station in Lawrence County is set to go live in 2014. The Mesonet site is available here.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) includes information from several hundred precipitation observers in Missouri counties. Users may also sign up to be a CoCoRaHS weather observer.

MU is one of 12 partners in the new five-year "Useful to Usable" (U2U) project to provide decision tools on climate, growing degree days, split nitrogen application and crop water use in the nation's Corn Belt. U2U is available here.

U2U has two online decision-support tools: AgClimate View provides a historical view of climate and yield across the Corn Belt. Growing Degree Day allows producers to enter planting date and hybrid to obtain estimates of when critical events such as silking, black layer and freeze might occur.

Yield data for corn and soybean can be plotted and compared over a five-year period on the U2U site. The interactive site also lets users compare nitrogen application using variable prices and percentages.

The Missouri Climate Center, through MU's Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, offers numerous weather and climate-related articles and resources.

Climate Basic is a new free data system offering weather, soil and crop data at a field level. You can sign up for this service here and enter University of Missouri in the "agent" field.

Guinan says there are many freely available climate resources on the Web, ranging from global to local.

Some of these resources include:

National Climatic Data Center

NOAA Climate Portal

Regional Climate Centers

State Climate Offices

National Weather Service

Climate Prediction Center

MU also has several other agronomy weather sites that are in beta testing.

Source: University of Missouri Extension