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Progress Report on Study of Corn Grower Practices Related to Climate Change

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During his visit to Purdue University last week Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy was updated on research happening at the university that is being funded by the agency he directs at USDA, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Linda Prokopy, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources is leading researchers at the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, and she provided the update on the $5 million project studying corn grower practices and changes in climate.

“What we’ve done our first couple of years is survey corn producers across the region, and we’ve also surveyed people who work with corn producers to have a better understanding of their needs; what types of weather and climate information are they already using; where are there gaps that we think we can fill; when do they make decisions so we can understand when it would be useful for us to be providing information. We’ve also been developing crop models under a variety of different climate and economic scenarios so we can understand what’s going on, what kind of yields are happening under different scenarios.”

Prokopy added, “Now we’re bringing those two things together as we enter into our third year. We’re bringing our crop modeling and our climate modeling together with social science, what we know about what people want and need, and we’re starting to develop decision support tools that will help farmers adapt to an increasingly variable climate.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to provide those tools and in such a way that they will be used on the farm. Prokopy told HAT last year’s drought may provide some ancillary benefits.

“I think that will help us in terms of peoples’ willingness to use tools to help make improved decisions in the future. Our surveys were actually done prior to the drought so we know peoples’ willingness and interest pre-drought, and it will be interesting to see how that has changed post-drought.”

As the 5 year project is completed the tools will be rolled out to the primary 12-state corn growing region, but determining how to roll out and to whom is part of focus group work to be done in the next 3 years.

“We’re developing the decision support tools and then we’ll be testing them with groups and testing different ways of getting them out to the community. Would it be extension for example talking directly to farmers or is it going to be extension working with certified crop advisors or with soil and water conservation districts? We’re not sure yet who is the end use for our tools. Is it farmers or advisors?”

There are 21 co-project directors at 9 Midwest universities. In addition to NIFA there is some additional funding provided by the Purdue and Iowa State colleges of agriculture and the Iowa NRCS.Linda Prokopy on NIFA project

Hear the full HAT interview here:Sonny Ramaswamy-Linda Prokopy