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Corn+Soybean Digest

Climate Predictions Help Make Ag Decisions

Steve Hu knows the extensive federal resources that have gone into developing various observational data, computer models and space technology for weather forecasting.

So it only makes sense to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension climatologist that more people use the forecasts effectively to help them make money-saving decisions.

Hu and his UNL team developed a Web education and training tool they named Think About It. This tool helps agricultural producers learn how to use scientific weather predictions for precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind, evapotranspiration rates and more in their crop management. When and how much to irrigate is an example of what Think About It might help a producer decide to do.

"This system becomes very useful" when producers face doubled energy costs and water allocations in many places, Hu says.

Rex Kirchhoff of Hardy is a south-central Nebraska producer who participated in the 2008 Think About It workshops. Kirchhoff says he began working with the Little Blue Natural Resources District last year to use tools such as moisture blocks and evapotranspiration gauges. These tools help make decisions for irrigation scheduling, as well as the first and last irrigations for his diversified crop operation.

Now, climate predictions are "one more tool in the tool chest," Kirchhoff says, adding, "it's not just one thing that goes into the decision-making process."

Kirchhoff says so far he has used knowledge from Think About It to check weather maps for wind velocity and direction, which he says is beneficial for spraying.

Hu says weather predictions aren't 100% accurate, but learning to compensate through critical thinking is part of the process, and helps "cope with uncertainty."

Hu expects to offer Think About It education through online workshops within the year.

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