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Book: Challenges and Strategies of Dryland Agriculture
Published by: Crop Science Society of America and American Society of Agronomy



  1.  p. 47-65
    CSSA Special Publication 32.
    Challenges and Strategies of Dryland Agriculture

    Srinivas C. Rao and John Ryan (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-611-3


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Climate Forecasts: Emerging Potential to Reduce Dryland Farmers' Risks

  1. Jean L. Steiner,
  2. Jeanne M. Schneider,
  3. Jurgen D. Garbrecht and
  4. Xunchang J. Zhang
  1. USDA,ARS, El Reno, Oklahoma


Agricultural management strategies are needed to improve lives of people in harsh, dryland regions. If the upcoming season's climate was predictable, farmers could tailor practices to match anticipated climate, reducing risks during adverse seasons, while investing more to benefit from favorable seasons. Such a possibility has long been a dream, but there is reason for optimism that our ability to predict climate is improving. In this chapter we describe climate forecasts and discuss potential applications at the farm level. Climate forecasts include local early indicators of future climate, correlation of local climate to global processes, and dynamic modeling of climate processes. Operational forecasts offer potential to guide production decisions, such as crop species or cultivar selection, fertility management, area to be planted, pest management, intensity and timing of grazing and purchase, sale, or movement of animals. Management decisions related to marketing, labor, and diversification, and regional decisions relating to input supply, markets, transportation, storage, or community health services could also be guided by climate forecasts. Forecasts have sufficient utility to guide decision-making in some regions for some seasons. To move forward, continued improvement and evaluation of forecasts skill are needed. Improvements in forecasting tools for regions that gain little from current forecasts and forecasts of extreme events should be a focus for further work. Uncertainty analysis for scenario simulation, tools to assess tradeoffs within a whole farm context, and better methods to communicate probabilistic outcomes are needed. Perhaps most critical is engaging farmers as partners in development of new tools to support decision-making on-farm and using seasonal climate forecasts within the context of overall risk analysis and management of an agricultural system.

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