Tag Archives: extreme weather

Growing frustration about the weather. What can we do?

2017 has been a very wet year. But you already know that. From May to July, most of upstate New York received at least five inches of rain above normal. But go back to 2016 and the same areas had deficits ranging from one two five inches. That’s a real drag.

Northeast Regional Climate Center. Cornell University

How are you supposed to plan ahead when it seems impossible to predict what will happen? It seems like every growing season is different. What our parents and grandparents knew about weather patterns on the family farm may no longer apply.

‘It’s June and we’re not even in our fields.’

‘I missed the cutoff date for crop insurance.’

The list goes on and on.

The Network for Environment and Weather Applications is a useful resource for fruit and vegetable growers when it comes to understanding how changing weather conditions affect your operation on a daily or weekly basis. For example, online tools such as our apple scab and fire blight models help you understand disease risk and subsequent action steps on a daily basis to protect your apples.

But what about the bigger picture? As growers, how do we even begin to predict management needs in the upcoming season when historical patterns and family knowledge may no longer be as useful?  Precipitation, drought, extreme weather, extended growing season and so on are all hitting us at once. Our climate is changing.

Dr. Allison Chatrchyan, director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions has taken steps to explore this ‘big picture’ dilemma by collaborating with Cornell professors Dr. Art DeGaetano and Dr. Toby Ault, as well as regional Cornell Cooperative Extension specialists throughout New York State who form the Climate Smart Farming (CSF) Extension Team.

Climate Smart Farming Team Members

Laura McDermott Regional Extension Specialist Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program
Dr. Kitty O’Neil Northern NY Regional Agronomist North Country Regional Ag Team
Dr. Kimberly Morrill Regional Dairy Specialist North Country Regional Ag Team
Dr. Darcy Telenko Extension Vegetable Specialist Cornell Vegetable Program

Online climate smart decision tools have also been developed to complement the work of CSF Extension Team members.  Visit the Cornell Climate Smart Farming website to explore these resources related to agriculture and climate. Where NEWA looks at short-term risks posed by insects and diseases to a crop, the CSF program takes a broader view, providing historical context to current conditions and seasonal trends. By doing so, growers can move in a direction of understanding ways in which fluctuating climate conditions could influence farming operations.

Dr. Chatrchryan provides a great overview of the CSF program in this video. Her talk, Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Program: Research, Tools, and Extension Support for Farmers in New York and the Northeast, was presented at the 2016 New York State IPM Conference Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes. You can also download a PDF of Dr. Chatrchyan’s presentation.

Special thanks to Dr. A. Chatrchyan, L. McDermott, Dr. Kitty O’Neill, Dr. K. Morrill, Dr. D. Telenko, Dr. A. DeGaetano (NRCC) Dr. Toby Ault (EAS) and Dr. M. Hoffmann (CICCS)

Dan Olmstead is Coordinator of the New York State IPM program’s Network for Environment and Weather Applications. You can follow him on Twitter (@dolmstead) and Instagram (@dan_olmstead).

Farm adaptation: on-farm planning strategies

In part one, we discussed the reality of farming in the future and the importance of understanding that unpredictability is going to be the only predictable thing moving forward. Success, however, doesn’t have to be an elusive goal even when extreme weather and climate shift pose significant challenges. Your ability to adopt specific strategies and innovative approaches depends on available time and resources, but some broad strategies have already been identified and shown to have success.

  1. Alter system inputs. Choose crop varieties or species that possess qualities that align with your farm climate, such as drought or heat shock tolerance.  Choose a shorter or longer developing variety.  Adjust fertilizer rates to maintain crop quality. Cornell’s Adapt-N program is a very useful tool for this.
  2. Develop a water budget. Experiment with ways to save water when abundant and efficiently move it to areas of need when there is a deficit.  Understand your water needs throughout the season by looking at precipitation in recent years. NEWA’s apple irrigation tool is also useful for managing water use in orchards through the growing season.
  3. Plan for extremes. Manage extreme weather events to your advantage. Study weather patterns and trends in recent years. Assume they will become the norm and experiment with ways to save that water for later use and at the same time reduce erosion, reduce water-logged soil and prevent nutrient leaching. NEWA provides insect and disease forecasts to help inform management decisions from day to day in this respect.
  4. Minimize risk. Spread your investments over different income streams.
  5. Utilize IPM. Look for ways to incorporate, improve or refine integrated pest management practices to mitigate the impact of insects, disease and weeds on your bottom line. NEWA is a great resource for maximizing your IPM strategies in this respect.
  6. Utilize climate data. Understand weather trends in recent years and the possibility of things to come in the near future. Cornell Climate Smart Farming Tools and the Northeast Regional Climate Center can provide information for make longer term on-farm management decisions.

To learn more about these farm adaptation strategies, read this open-access PDF article.

Read part 1 and part 3 of this series.

Farm adaptation: predicting the unpredictable

In 2013, USDA ARS reported that climate change and extreme weather will have significant long lasting effects on all aspects of agricultural production in the United States. You’ve likely already experienced the sour taste of what is now becoming the norm.  Extreme weather, unpredictable rainfall, higher temperatures and other factors that keep you awake at night will be a regular part of the dialogue when it comes to farm management planning in the short and long term.

There is a growing consensus, however, that the way you approach these challenges will make all the difference.  Reacting to each situation is not likely to provide long-term stability for your farm.  In contrast, a proactive approach that anticipates climate and weather variability, informed by personal knowledge of local short-term climate patterns, is more likely to result in future scenarios that have positive and productive outcomes for you. This is also why NEWA is becoming an increasingly important resource – it provides real-time short term forecasting tools needed to make well informed decisions.

Here are some important weather and climate facts that NEWA helps address.

  1. Globally, average temperature will rise by 0.18°F (0.1°C) per decade during our lifetime. This doesn’t seem like much right? But remember this is an average. The way this really looks on your farm is bigger and more extreme temperatures in both directions throughout the year and more extreme weather.
  2. Even predictable increases in temperature over time can have disproportionately negative impacts on current agricultural practices if adaptive plans are not made. If you do not have a plan to be flexible in adverse growing conditions, the long-term outlook is less certain.
  3. On the positive side, climate change will create opportunities for innovation and investment in agriculture. A grower who is aware and has a plan for adaptability in place, becoming an early adopter of new approaches and technology as part of that plan, will be well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.

Read part 2 and part 3 of this series.