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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 100 No. Supplement_3, p. S-132-S-152
    Received: Dec 30, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): jean.steiner@ars.usda.gov
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Winds of Change: A Century of Agroclimate Research

  1. Jean L. Steiner *a and
  2. Jerry L. Hatfieldb
  1. a USDA-ARS, Grazinglands Research Lab., 7207 West Cheyenne St., El Reno, OK 73036
    b USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Lab., 2110 University Blvd., Ames, IA 50011. Contribution of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Use of product name is for information purposes only and does not imply an endorsement by the authors or USDA


Climate has been of primary concern from the beginning of agricultural research. Early in the 20th century, climatology and agronomy evolved separately, focusing primarily on production agriculture and crop adaptation. Concepts developed include thermal units and water use efficiency. The integrated discipline of agroclimatology developed in the mid-20th century. As theoretical understanding evolved, numerous papers related to agroclimatology were named Citation Classics. Spectral properties of plants and soils were identified that underpin today's remote sensing technologies. Commercialization of instrumentation enhanced our ability to efficiently collect data using standardized methods. Private and public-sector partnerships advanced research capacity. Later in the 20th century, research focus shifted toward integrating knowledge into crop growth and agronomic models. Remote sensing provided capacity to gain theoretical and practical understanding of regional scale processes. In the early 21st century, recognition of earth as a system along with inter-related human systems is driving research and political agendas. There is a pressing need to change our data-rich to an information-rich environment. The emerging cyberinformatics field along with natural resource and agricultural system models allow us to apply climate information to assessments and decision support related to water supply, production, environmental management, and other issues. Solutions to today's problems require interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral teams. While needs have never been greater, fewer universities maintain critical mass required to offer advance degrees in agroclimatology. It will be increasingly important that agrclimatology attract top students and provide training and practical experience in conducting integrated systems research, communications, and team skills.

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Copyright © 2008. American Society of AgronomyCopyright © 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy