• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Cover
 Title Page
 Abstract
 Table of Contents
 Introduction
 Methods
 Counties visited
 Findings
 Forestry
 Other users
 Information dissemination
 Conclusions
 Recommendations
 Reference






Group Title: Staff paper - University of Florida. Food and Resource Economics Dept. - SP 99-9
Title: Potential use of long range climate forecasts by agricultural extension agents in Florida
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053842/00001
 Material Information
Title: Potential use of long range climate forecasts by agricultural extension agents in Florida a sondeo report
Series Title: Staff paper
Alternate Title: Sondeo report
Physical Description: 25 p. : map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Cabrera, Victor E
Publisher: Food and Resource Economics Dept., Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1999
 Subjects
Subject: Long-range weather forecasting -- Research -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Climatic factors -- Research -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Agricultural extension work -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical reference (p. 25).
Statement of Responsibility: by Victor Cabrera ... et al.
General Note: "September, 1999."
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053842
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002497721
oclc - 42756059
notis - AML3425

Table of Contents
    Cover
        Cover
    Title Page
        Page i
    Abstract
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
    Introduction
        Page 1
    Methods
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Counties visited
        Page 3
    Findings
        Page 4
        Distrtict I: Panhandle region
            Page 4
            Page 5
        District II: North Central
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
        District III: Central
            Page 9
            Page 10
            Page 11
        District IV: South central
            Page 12
            Page 13
            Page 14
        District V: South
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
    Forestry
        Page 19
    Other users
        Page 20
    Information dissemination
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Conclusions
        Page 23
    Recommendations
        Page 24
    Reference
        Page 25
Full Text
Il(1.k o2W.


SP 99-9


STAFF PAPER SERIES


@ UNIVERSITY OF
1 FLORIDA
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Food and Resource Economics Department
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL


POTENTIAL USE OF LONG RANGE CLIMATE FORECASTS BY
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS IN FLORIDA
by

Victor Cabrera, Maxine Downs, Matt Langholtz, Arthur Mugisha
Rachel Sandals, Avrum Shriar and Devin Veach


Coordinator: Angela Caudle
Editor: Peter Hildebrand


September 1999


Staff Paper SP 99-9









POTENTIAL USE OF LONG RANGE CLIMATE FORECASTS BY
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AGENTS IN FLORIDA







A SONDEO REPORT










Staff papers are circulated without formal review by the Food and Resource Economics
Department. Their content is the sole responsibility of the authors.















Team Members:
Victor Cabrera, Maxine Downs, Matt Langholtz, Arthur Mugisha,
Rachel Sandals, Avrum Shriar, Kevin Veach

Coordinator: Angela Caudle

Editor: Peter Hildebrand


September, 1999








ABSTRACT


This study has several goals. First, it aims to ascertain how climate forecasts can be
tailored for use in agriculture. Second, it provides information on the needed accuracy of
the forecasts for different agricultural uses. Third, it provides an evaluation of different
management options for specific forecasts. And fourth, it estimates the value of such
forecasts to agriculture in the region.

The project focused on agricultural extension agents in Florida and their perception of
how long-term climate forecasts are being or could be used by farmers to improve
agricultural decision making. The information was gathered through informal interviews
called sondeos, a team survey process that was developed to provide information rapidly
and economically.

In general, it appears that the more diverse operations in the north, which are often
smaller than many in the south, are in a better position to respond to climate predictions.
The ability to respond also depends on the commodities a farmer is producing. Different
attitudes were found among extension agents about their willingness to disseminate
climate information and recommend strategies and practices based on climate
predictions. At a local scale, market was found to be a more important factor than
climate. However, since climate conditions in competing supply regions have a profound
impact on prices, climate predictions in these areas would be very important in farmers'
decision-making process. Competing producers and other stakeholders such as chemical
suppliers, insurance companies, produce buyers, relief aid agencies, and banks would
also benefit from climate prediction, and often to the detriment of farmers.

Key Words: Sondeo, climate prediction, farmer responses, extension use














CONTENTS


Introduction .
Methods 1
Counties Visited 3
Findings 4
District I Panhandle 4
District II North Central 6
District III Central 9
District IV South Central 12
District V South 15
Forestry .19
Other Users 20
Information Dissemination 21
Conclusions 23
Recommendations 24
Reference 25












INTRODUCTION


A consortium of Florida Universities is conducting a study sponsored by the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the potential use
of longer-term climate forecasts (as opposed to daily or weekly weather forecasts) to
improve agricultural decision making, and to develop methods and tools to facilitate the
effective use of climate forecasts in agriculture. Recent research by climatologists has
produced methods of forecasting climate and weather patterns 3 to 6 months in advance.
Some of these methods use information on El Nifio activity and associated shifts in global
wind patterns. These forecasts appear to have considerable potential for application in
agriculture. If farmers know early on what the weather will be over the next growing
seasonss, they may be able to adjust their practices.

Many questions must be answered before climate forecasts can be used with confidence
in agriculture. If farmers have a reliable climate forecast three to six months ahead of
time, what changes could they make in their strategies, and for what crops? What are the
risks associated with these changes? Realizing that forecast will never be perfect, are
climate forecasts a feasible tool for farmers and extension agents?

This study has several goals. First, it aims to ascertain how climate forecasts can be
tailored for use in agriculture. Second, it provides information on the needed accuracy of
the forecasts for different agricultural uses. Third, it provides an evaluation of different
management options for specific forecasts. And fourth, it estimates the value of such
forecasts to agriculture in the region.

The project described in this report focused on agricultural extension agents in Florida
and their perception of how long-term climate forecasts are being or could be used by
farmers to improve agricultural decision making. The information was gathered through
informal interviews called sondeos. The findings have been divided into sections based
on the existing extension districts.


METHODS

The sondeo (Hildebrand, 1981) is a team survey process that was developed to provide
information rapidly and economically about agricultural practices in order to guide
strategy in agricultural development programs. It is structured around a series of
informal, conversational interviews between the team and farmers. It is a
multidisciplinary process from data collection through report writing with each team
ideally including people from the social and the agricultural sciences. This helps avoid a
typical problem of "team" reports where the people from separate disciplines write
separate reports based on their specialties and then combine them without much cross
fertilization. In a sondeo, data are shared among the different teams and report writing is












INTRODUCTION


A consortium of Florida Universities is conducting a study sponsored by the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the potential use
of longer-term climate forecasts (as opposed to daily or weekly weather forecasts) to
improve agricultural decision making, and to develop methods and tools to facilitate the
effective use of climate forecasts in agriculture. Recent research by climatologists has
produced methods of forecasting climate and weather patterns 3 to 6 months in advance.
Some of these methods use information on El Nifio activity and associated shifts in global
wind patterns. These forecasts appear to have considerable potential for application in
agriculture. If farmers know early on what the weather will be over the next growing
seasonss, they may be able to adjust their practices.

Many questions must be answered before climate forecasts can be used with confidence
in agriculture. If farmers have a reliable climate forecast three to six months ahead of
time, what changes could they make in their strategies, and for what crops? What are the
risks associated with these changes? Realizing that forecast will never be perfect, are
climate forecasts a feasible tool for farmers and extension agents?

This study has several goals. First, it aims to ascertain how climate forecasts can be
tailored for use in agriculture. Second, it provides information on the needed accuracy of
the forecasts for different agricultural uses. Third, it provides an evaluation of different
management options for specific forecasts. And fourth, it estimates the value of such
forecasts to agriculture in the region.

The project described in this report focused on agricultural extension agents in Florida
and their perception of how long-term climate forecasts are being or could be used by
farmers to improve agricultural decision making. The information was gathered through
informal interviews called sondeos. The findings have been divided into sections based
on the existing extension districts.


METHODS

The sondeo (Hildebrand, 1981) is a team survey process that was developed to provide
information rapidly and economically about agricultural practices in order to guide
strategy in agricultural development programs. It is structured around a series of
informal, conversational interviews between the team and farmers. It is a
multidisciplinary process from data collection through report writing with each team
ideally including people from the social and the agricultural sciences. This helps avoid a
typical problem of "team" reports where the people from separate disciplines write
separate reports based on their specialties and then combine them without much cross
fertilization. In a sondeo, data are shared among the different teams and report writing is








done as a group so that observations are confirmed, debated and analyzed with members
of the other teams. The results may be quantified or not but the accuracy of the findings is
strengthened by the cross-checking process. Using this process, the final report may be
completed within days of the final fieldwork, assuring the timeliness of the results.

Data Collection

The sondeo team consisted of eight graduate students from a number of backgrounds
including anthropology, agronomy, agricultural extension, natural resource management,
forestry, geography, and community development. Two-person teams that changed
partners each day conducted interviews. Changing partners helped team members avoid
creating habits and roles with their partners that would reduce a team's effectiveness.

The interviews were conducted over a period of nine days from August 9 through August
18, 1999. Each team scheduled two interviews with extension agents Monday,
Wednesday and Friday of the first week and on Monday and Wednesday of the second
week. Between each of those days all team members met in a common location to report
and discuss the previous day's interviews. The process began in south Florida in
extension District V and moved north through districts IV and III the first week. During
the second week, the teams worked in the panhandle and north Florida in Districts I and
II.

The interviews were conducted as informal conversations. After a team introduced itself
and explained the subject of the research, the agents) and the sondeo team conversed
about any aspects of the topic that the agent wished to discuss. This open-ended approach
enabled topics to emerge and be pursued that might have been missed if the researchers
had only previously formulated questions. Despite the open-endedness, a set of core
themes was discussed in almost all interviews. Notes are generally not taken in sondeo
interviews, although some interviewers found brief notes useful to capture the specifics
of the information provided. Following each interview the partners wrote individual
notes, compared them, and then wrote a joint report for the interview.

Data Analysis

The joint reports from each team were shared and discussed among all sondeo members
on the days between interviews. As each team presented its findings, they could be
clarified, challenged or contrasted with the results of the other teams. Everyone was
expected to take notes on the findings of each team, as all members were responsible for
the findings of all the teams. This process of reporting and discussion served as the
opportunity to begin noting trends, gaps in information and new questions to be pursued.

Report

The report structure was discussed and agreed to by the team members as a whole.
Responsibility for writing drafts of the sections of the report was taken by individuals or
two-person teams that began working on them following the last day of interviews. The






Counties


tied


CI)
~I C'4
*+-O
X -. >


D District I
I District II
SDistrict III
[ District IV


He


- River
-J!


District V









entire sondeo team worked together to edit and produce the final report. As the group
discussed each section, changes were made to the document. Conclusions and
recommendations were written collectively by the whole team at the time of editing.


FINDINGS

DISTRICT I Panhandle Region

Background

District I covers 15 counties in the panhandle region of north Florida, west of
Tallahassee. It extends from Leon and Wakulla counties in the east to Escambia county
in the west. Interviews were held with extension agents in six of the 15 counties of the
district: Leon, Gadsden, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia.

These counties are located entirely or partly within the northern part of District 1, along
the Georgia and Alabama borders, where soils are well drained and generally conducive
to agriculture. In contrast, the southern part of the district, adjacent to the Gulf of
Mexico, is characterized by heavy and often wetland soils, typical of emergent coastal
zones. This southern section of the district also is increasingly characterized by suburban
and tourism development.

The main crops and commodities in the district in terms of value and acreage include
cotton, peanuts, soybeans, and pine trees. Other important commodities are corn, wheat
and other small grains, beef cattle, melons, strawberries, blueberries, mixed vegetables,
and hay (mostly for local use). There are also dairy farms, ornamental crops, sod,
Christmas trees, goats, pigs, and catfish. Horse farms are important in some areas, such
as Gadsden County near Tallahassee.

There is considerable variation among the surveyed counties in the extent of irrigation.
This is true even among counties with a strong agricultural base. Farmers in Escambia
and Santa Rosa counties, for example, seldom have or use irrigation, while in Jackson
county, most farms are irrigated. Counties also vary considerably in the degree of
emphasis placed on agricultural production and activity. All of the aforementioned
counties have a strong agricultural orientation, as does Gadsden county, while in the two
remaining surveyed counties, Okaloosa and Leon, agriculture represents a relatively
minor economic sector. This appears to be due to soil conditions in the case of Okaloosa,
and urbanization and high land values in the case of Leon County.

Weather/Climate and Existing Responses

District I is relatively unique in Florida in that it is significantly affected by frontal
weather (generally between December and May), as well as by the summer convective
weather that occurs throughout the state. Thus, unlike most of Florida it receives
substantial rainfall during the colder season in addition to the heavy convective showers









entire sondeo team worked together to edit and produce the final report. As the group
discussed each section, changes were made to the document. Conclusions and
recommendations were written collectively by the whole team at the time of editing.


FINDINGS

DISTRICT I Panhandle Region

Background

District I covers 15 counties in the panhandle region of north Florida, west of
Tallahassee. It extends from Leon and Wakulla counties in the east to Escambia county
in the west. Interviews were held with extension agents in six of the 15 counties of the
district: Leon, Gadsden, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia.

These counties are located entirely or partly within the northern part of District 1, along
the Georgia and Alabama borders, where soils are well drained and generally conducive
to agriculture. In contrast, the southern part of the district, adjacent to the Gulf of
Mexico, is characterized by heavy and often wetland soils, typical of emergent coastal
zones. This southern section of the district also is increasingly characterized by suburban
and tourism development.

The main crops and commodities in the district in terms of value and acreage include
cotton, peanuts, soybeans, and pine trees. Other important commodities are corn, wheat
and other small grains, beef cattle, melons, strawberries, blueberries, mixed vegetables,
and hay (mostly for local use). There are also dairy farms, ornamental crops, sod,
Christmas trees, goats, pigs, and catfish. Horse farms are important in some areas, such
as Gadsden County near Tallahassee.

There is considerable variation among the surveyed counties in the extent of irrigation.
This is true even among counties with a strong agricultural base. Farmers in Escambia
and Santa Rosa counties, for example, seldom have or use irrigation, while in Jackson
county, most farms are irrigated. Counties also vary considerably in the degree of
emphasis placed on agricultural production and activity. All of the aforementioned
counties have a strong agricultural orientation, as does Gadsden county, while in the two
remaining surveyed counties, Okaloosa and Leon, agriculture represents a relatively
minor economic sector. This appears to be due to soil conditions in the case of Okaloosa,
and urbanization and high land values in the case of Leon County.

Weather/Climate and Existing Responses

District I is relatively unique in Florida in that it is significantly affected by frontal
weather (generally between December and May), as well as by the summer convective
weather that occurs throughout the state. Thus, unlike most of Florida it receives
substantial rainfall during the colder season in addition to the heavy convective showers









that fall during the summer months, particularly July and August. The fall months of
September to December are relatively dry, except in the event of hurricane-related
storms.

Limited information was obtained on existing responses to climate and weather. In
relation to several crops (unspecified), the objective is to harvest as early as possible in
the fall without losing the young plants to late frosts in the spring. One agent claimed
that drought conditions and events of excessive rain are equally problematic to farmers.
Irrigation is relied upon only in some areas, because the amount and distribution of
precipitation generally are considered adequate. Also, special drainage works are
relatively uncommon. Conservation tillage aimed at moisture retention has grown in
importance. Methods include strip and lister tillage. It also was noted that if summers
are relatively dry, less fungicide is applied to the peanut crop. In addition, timing and
other decisions related to harvesting commonly are based on one to two week weather
forecasts.

Potential Responses to Improved Climate Forecasts

This section covers the responses that might be expected if the agricultural sector had
access to more reliable and accurate climate forecasts. The potential responses fall into
three main categories: cropping patterns and planting decisions; crop and pest
management; and livestock management. In general, it was emphasized that improved
forecasts would help guide decisions about 1) what crops and varieties to plant, 2) where
on the property (with respect to moisture) a crop should be planted, and 3) when.
Climatic factors of importance in relation to these decisions include temperature, rainfall
and humidity, sunlight, and extreme events such as storms and floods, droughts, frosts
and freezes, and hail. The following are examples of responsive cropping decisions that
were cited by the extension agents:

-More watermelon and cantaloupe if wet weather is expected over summer months;
-Less or no vegetable production if dry conditions are expected;
-Corn and soybean would not be planted if dry weather is expected;
-Plant winter grains on sandy soils only if a wet winter is anticipated;
-Produce more sod if humid conditions are expected;
-Delay planting tree seedlings to avoid drought impacts;
-Adjust timing of cotton planting;
-Select alternate soybean varieties based on anticipated sunlight conditions in a given
season;
-Select new or alternative crops to match crop tolerance with anticipated temperature
ranges in a given season.

With respect to crop and pest management, the following actions in response to climate
prediction were mentioned:

-Managing frosts and freezes in fruit production. No example was provided, but
presumably this includes the use of irrigation, heaters, etc.;









-Applying less fungicide to peanuts if dry conditions are expected;
-Expanding or contracting irrigation systems on a farm;
-Taking steps to avoid pest (including weed) problems, particularly through IPM. For
example, it was noted that the number of heat units reportedly affects cotton pests and
pesticide requirements.
-Making decisions about chemical defoliation in cotton.

In livestock management it was mentioned here, as elsewhere, that a farmer might
expand the herd if wet weather and thus good forage production were expected. On the
other hand, if dry conditions were anticipated, herd size may be reduced and/or an effort
would be made to store feed in advance of the dry conditions at a lower price.

Other Important Factors

Some agents maintained that market factors have a much greater influence on agricultural
decisions than climatic factors. Forecasted climate for other regions of the country and
other world regions would help with decisions about supply and marketing. Such
information also would be useful to those engaged in futures and options trading.

Poor prices and market conditions for agricultural commodities in the district encourage
conversion of agricultural land to forest plantations and suburban development. The
Conservation Reserve Program and high land values provide additional incentives.

High accuracy and reliability is critical to increasing reliance on forecasting for decision-
making. Another factor is cost and accessibility of the service for farmers.


DISTRICT II- North Central

Background

District II consists of 17 counties in north Florida of which Levy, Alachua, Bradford,
Clay, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Madison, Jefferson, Suwannee, Columbia and Hamilton were
included. The main agricultural products in the district are peanuts, tobacco, cotton, corn,
timber, dairy cattle, beef cattle, pasture, vegetables, ornamentals, watermelons,
strawberries, and poultry. Other minor agricultural products include goats, soybeans and
blueberries. Most of the counties in this district have very diverse agriculture. In each
county a large portion of the agricultural products listed above are present. There seems
to be a wide variation in the amount of land and crops irrigated throughout the district. In
some areas drip irrigation is increasing, while in others irrigation is not used.

Traditional agriculture is declining in the district and much of the land in agricultural
production has recently moved to other uses. Much of the soybean and corn areas have
been put into timber through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or the Forestry
Incentive Program (FIP) due to market, taxes, and demographic reasons. The CRP pays
the farmer more per acre per year to take highly erodible land out of production than the









marginal profits of corn and soybeans according to one agent. Some land has been
converted to urban development, while other land is reportedly left idle when a farmer
retires because the younger generations are not continuing in agricultural production.

Weather/Climate and Current Responses

All of the extension agents interviewed in the southern counties of District II mentioned
that the past few years have been drier than usual, especially the springs. They also said
that drought is harder to deal with than excess rain in terms of management practices.
One implication of a dry spring is the reduction in hay production that increases the
producers' costs because they have to buy more feed for their cattle. Heat also was
mentioned as an important factor influencing pollination, especially for corn. Currently,
farmers are using weather forecasts mainly for pesticide and fertilizer decisions. One
important factor for rainfed agriculture is the variation of weather over a short distance,
making predictions more difficult to use.

There are examples of farmers and extension agents who have already used climate
predictions.
-One agent mentioned that he currently uses climate predictions in the Midwest to
estimate the price of feed.
-When one farmer learned of an adverse climate prediction for California, where Chinese
cabbage is grown, he decided to plant more of this crop. As a result of this
decision, he made a good profit.
-An extension agent received climate prediction information at a meeting and conveyed
the information to farmers. According to the agent, the farmers who responded to
the prediction did better than those who did not.

Potential Responses to Improved Climate Forecasts

The majority of agents felt that climate predictions would be very useful. Climate
predictions could influence crop type and location. It may influence the variety planted,
but with fewer options as varieties are usually related to other factors, such as pest
resistance. They may change maturity groups based on predictions. However, it seems
that in some counties it would not influence the crop planted (i.e. peanut-producing
counties) because farmers are locked in to certain commodities. Late spring freezes are a
threat to tobacco, watermelon, corn and pasture. Farmers could push back the planting
date of these commodities but then would lose market windows and risk harvesting
during hurricane season.

Corn
Some producers may choose not to plant corn if the summer is expected to be dry or they
may change their planting season from March to July depending on early or late wet
seasons. They may also change the amount or location of corn planted.









Poultry
Because chickens are raised on contract, the biggest influences on production are the
policies and decisions of the company. Farmers may change chicken density and/or sex
ratio. If they expect an extremely hot summer they could better prepare their cooling
systems.

Cotton
Flexibility to adjust harvesting dates based on climate predictions is limited because the
farmers have to supply the gins when requested.

Peanuts
The main sources of flexibility with peanuts are variety and maturity group. Farmers
may also change the planting date; however, there is a small planting window.

Dairy Cattle
With extreme heat predictions farmers may choose to dry their cows early or sell them.
They may also make contracts for grain purchases earlier to receive a better price if they
knew it would be necessary to buy more grain than normal or that grain would be in
higher than usual demand.

Tobacco
There are not many changes a farmer could make with climate forecasts in this crop
because it is mostly irrigated. If wet weather were expected they could plan preventative
spraying of fungicides.

Beef Cattle
Responses to climate predictions in beef cattle could include selling cattle sooner or later
than usual and increasing amount of pasture planted and/or increasing irrigation of
pasture. They may also stockpile feed.

Other Important Factors

Almost all agents in this district mentioned market values or the economy as the main
driving factor behind farmers' decision-making. For example, in Madison and Jefferson
Counties market values and poor soil conditions were identified as the main factors
influencing the change to pine production. Other related issues were also mentioned such
as availability of crop insurance and disaster aid. One county agent said that the
availability of disaster aid serves as a disincentive to use best management practices.
However, now that the disaster aid program is becoming more strict in its distribution
policy, farmers may have more incentive to use climate predictions. Finally, two agents
mentioned that labor availability was a major influence on producers of such
commodities as strawberries, watermelons, and some vegetables.









DISTRICT III- Central

Background

District In is located in central Florida, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic
Ocean. We spoke with extension agents in seven of the 13 total counties including
Citrus, Flagler, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Sumter. Much of the land use
variation is due to the demographics of the district. Some counties have a large
population of retirees who are not interested in inviting non-agricultural industries for
employment opportunities, resulting in relatively stable land prices and agricultural
importance. Others attract industrial development through tax incentives or entice large
populations of tourists. The world's main tourist center, the Orlando area, has
significantly influenced the main economic activities in the region.

The major agricultural commodities discussed with the extension agents in these counties
included nurseries and ornamental horticulture, citrus, beef cattle, horses, hay, pasture,
sod, timber, fruit such as watermelons, cantaloupe, blueberries, strawberries, vegetables
such as peppers, tomatoes, peas, beans, okra, squash, potatoes, cabbage, winter greens,
and peanuts.

Recently there has been a shift from traditional crops to other more commercially
oriented produce such as ornamental plants and sod grass for landscaping. In many areas,
horses are replacing cattle. In general, other more competitive forms of land use are
replacing traditional agriculture. As one extension agent put it, "...agriculture is no
longer as popular as it used to be due to urbanization, severe freezes in the 80s and better
returns on other investments."

Overall, citrus is declining, due to both urbanization and the freezes of the last decade.
There are also trends that represent regions within District III. For example, in the
eastern counties, the more profitable blueberries and strawberries often replace citrus.
The vegetable industry is shrinking.

Current Responses to Weather and Climate

As a result of the changing climate and erratic weather conditions, farmers are slowly
getting out of agriculture. The remaining farmers who cope with these challenges are
interested in climate and weather issues. To some, climate prediction is currently used as
a forum of social conversation and there is not much confidence in prediction and/or
reliability. Others, such as some large-scale Marion County farmers, use their own funds
to pay for weather data from at least three sources. They select the two that most nearly
agree. Some extension agents noted that the South Florida Water Management District is
more likely than farmers to use climate prediction because of their water resource
management mandate.

Farmers are already using techniques aimed at conserving water such as plastic mulching.
Nurseries are irrigated and heated, so only drought-induced water restrictions would









affect their ability to produce. In Osceola County, cattle graze mostly in swampy areas
that require minimum pasture management. According to agents in Osceola County,
there has been an increase in temperatures and less frequent freezes over the past four
years. This has frustrated citrus farmers who have already switched their fields to sod to
avoid the impact of freezes.

Among vegetable growers and horticulturists, there exists more interest in an accurate
and reliable 24-36 hour weather forecast than climatic prediction. Due to the variability
of weather from location to location, farmers would also prefer a specific, rather than
regional forecast. It was noted that the USDA Forest Service is far ahead in weather
prediction. Extension offices obtain data from them at times. It was also noted that
large-scale farmers in this District are better able to respond to climate predictions than
are small farmers, who have almost no ability to change their practices.

For various reasons, current sources of climate and weather predictions are often
unreliable for farmer use. For example, the Southwest Water Management District has
good weather data but the relationship between Extension and the water district is not
conducive to encourage free sharing of this important information. Data from the media
are said to be not accurate due to the powerful interests of the tourism industry. For
example, it was alleged that during winter, reported temperatures in Orlando are often an
average 10-12F higher than the actual reading.

Potential Responses to Improved Climate Forecast

Citrus
The value of climate prediction varied by county according to perceptions of the
extension agents, but general trends indicated more usefulness in large-scale operations.
For example, it was indicated that large-scale citrus farmers in Seminole County would
be interested in climate prediction to plan for production strategies. They have more
economic flexibility to adjust than do the small-scale farmers.

A climate model would also be useful in planning for irrigation in citrus. In Osceola
County, it was noted that citrus farmers could use climate predictions for planning
acquisition of infrastructure and equipment, such as generators and irrigation equipment,
as well as planning fungicide applications.

More skeptical agents noted that, while long-term predictions may be useful to the citrus
packaging industry in preparing for an early harvest, farmers already harvest as early as
possible to avoid frost damage. In Marion County, citrus industry has little recourse for
changing their patterns based on climate predictions.

Cattle, hay, and pasture
There was a general feeling throughout the interviews in the District that climate
prediction may be more useful in livestock and the pasture/hay industry. Cattle producers
would be very interested in predictions as far in advance as possible to prepare for
gestation and weaning periods. Beef cattle farmers would use the prediction models to









determine whether or not to plant pasture grass. Information would also be useful in
deciding to stockpile hay. Predictions would be used to determine herd size in order to
ensure a steady supply of feed and pasture management through stocking and de-
stocking. This would assist farmers in avoiding unexpected additional expenses of
supplementary feeding. Farmers would also be better advised as they decide on the
grazing regimes between the wet and dry periods.

Horse farms, hay and pasture
Knowledge of the rain patterns would assist farmers to manage their pastures and to
know the stocking capacity for the imported winter horses. They would be able to know
how much hay they need to import and could determine their horse stocking levels
depending on the predicted pasture availability. Pest control in pasture management is
another area that could benefit from climatic predictions, as farmers would be able to
determine when to spray, having knowledge of the conditions that favor the proliferation
of pests.

Timber
Forest managers would use the models to assist them in deciding on the planting season.
See the forest summary in a later section for more details.

Vegetables
Freezes were widely acknowledged to be a major problem in the vegetable industry.
Growers would use the models to predict freeze seasons and plan accordingly. Irrigation
strategies would benefit from wet and dry season climatic prediction. If farmers were
informed in advance, they would ensure an economically effective plan of irrigation.
However, other extension agents expressed reservations about the applicability of climate
predictions in this industry. They argued instead that there is a need to address vegetable
marketing and to cover costs related to infrastructure, rather than predicting climate.

In addition to freezes, floods were mentioned as another key factor that affects potatoes
and cabbage. Climate prediction would assist in flood planning by pumping water out of
the fields prior to heavy rains. Crops also may be planted in raised beds to avoid root
submersion.

Ornamental Horticulture and Plant Nurseries
Ornamental horticulture would also benefit from climate prediction, as growers could
plan to change the main soil substrates needed for potted plants. Weather forecast would
assist them to determine the plant pot placement and such other activities that would
enable them to protect plants from frost. The ornamental industry might use the climate
prediction to protect their ornamental plants or opt for importing instead of growing the
plants, based on probability of drought.

Peanuts
Farmers could change planting dates based on weather and climate forecasts. Small-scale
farmers would use weather data to determine when to apply fungicides or, where
possible, to determine planting and harvesting dates. Forecasts that accurately predict









temperatures below 300F could be very useful in peanut growing. However, some
skepticism was expressed for the value of climate predictions for this commodity, as
there is little flexibility to change practices.

Another application of climate predictions mentioned during the interviews was the farm
disaster aid preparedness. Prior knowledge of impending bad years would give the aid
programs ample time to prepare.

Other Important Factors

Marketing is an important factor in determining the planting and harvesting season. Even
a one-week planting delay could affect the profit margin of a crop by 50%. However, if
farmers expect a freeze, they would delay the planting even if they fully know it will
affect their profit margin. The main constraint to agriculture in the district is marketing of
the vegetable produce. Small farmers need to better organize themselves to tap into the
niche markets for their economic survival.

Trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), are also
important in determining the prices of agriculture produce. Several extension agents
suggested that climate prediction should also be available for other production areas such
as Mexico, Central America, and the Mid-west. This is very important for marketing
purposes.

Historical trends in climate are important in the relationship to agricultural changes, such
as the movement of citrus growers from north to south Florida over the past century. In
District III, the trends have promoted urbanization, affecting land prices that heavily
influence agriculture. Increased land prices and urbanization reduce the attractiveness of
agriculture.

DISTRICT IV- South Central

Background

There are 12 counties in District IV. For this sondeo we surveyed five of them:
Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Hillsborough, Highlands and Indian River. The commodities
grown in the district include dairy and beef cattle; vegetables (such as potatoes, corn,
peppers, watermelon, carrots, cabbage, all greens, strawberries, and tomatoes), citrus,
blueberries, blackberries, sod, and ornamental nurseries (including outdoor landscaping).
The extension agents for the district reported varied uses of water management. For
example, the coastal counties of Indian River and St. Lucie reported that water supply is a
major concern for production of citrus and urban nurseries. All the farmers pay close
attention to drought forecasts. Among vegetable and citrus growers, irrigation and
drainage works are commonly used. However, with too much rain, drainage issues may
be problematic. The ridge soils of Highland County are better drained than the flatwood
and muck areas of the region.









Weather/Climate and Existing Responses

Farmers currently use weather forecasts but generally lack confidence with climate
predictions. Some farmers respond to El Nifio predictions, while others do not. The
recent El Nifio has not drastically influenced climate forecasting in the District.

Cattle farmers use Bermuda and Bahia grass for cattle grazing. As a management
strategy, cattle farmers supplement feed during cold winters with imported hay, because
local pastures are scarce. During wet summers the grazing areas are limited and muddy
conditions prevail. Muddy conditions during the rainy season cause disease. Walking in
these conditions requires more energy, leading to lower milk production. Wet conditions
also present pest problems. During the summer dairy cows are cooled using ponds,
showers, and fans to avoid severe shortage of milk production.

Vegetables are a major crop in this District. Frost and excessive rains affect the crops. In
Highland County farmers plant their crops in areas that are relatively wet or dry based on
predicted climate forecast. Citrus is also affected by excess rain. Therefore, water
availability influences vegetable, citrus and nurseries more than any other climate factors.

Ornamentals are affected less by weather than other industries in the District, although
dampness with these crops brings on pest problems. The sod industry is also severely
affected by wet weather that can ruin the crop.

Potential Responses to Improved Climate Forecasts

Extensionists in the District mentioned that improved predictions of dry or wet conditions
would greatly influence how farmers manage water. Farmers with advance predictions
would clear drains in anticipation of wet weather as well as prepare to flood fields in
anticipation of frost conditions.

Reliability is a key aspect in climate forecasting. Information regarding climate would
help improve farmers' decision-making. Farmers must have confidence in the forecasts
in order to respond in any significant way. Not all of the extension offices in the district
disseminate information on climate forecasts. But if given more accurate climate
predictions they would make the information available to the farmers.

Climate forecasting would help farmers decide on options for new crops. Farmers are
always seeking to try new crops or commodities for financial benefit.

Climate forecasting information would be useful for pest control.

Vegetables
Vegetables are somewhat more flexible than other commodities. Contrary to comments
from other districts, small-scale vegetable producers in this District can more readily alter
or change crops and timing in response to climate predictions. For example, a predicted
frost could alter the scheduled planting date of sweet corn, or even whether to plant. In









addition, predictions may influence the use of pest resistant vegetable varieties based on
climate forecast. Forecasting also may affect the decision of whether or not to plant a
second crop.

In the case of blueberries, only a six-week marketing window exists, so there is limited
flexibility. Local climate forecasting also would not have much influence on the
ornamental industry.

For cattle (dairy and beef), a three year forecast or longer is desirable in this district.
Because forage and hay production is determined by climatic conditions, cattle farmers
can modify herd size based on predictions. Farmers can also produce a surplus and
stockpile when they expect a shortage. With forecasting, calves could be sold at
reasonable prices prior to a feed shortage. Farmers might also anticipate a larger snail
population and therefore a higher incidence of fluke disease. When drier and/or cooler
conditions are expected, incidence of liver fluke would be expected to decrease and
farmers could reduce vaccinations.

Climate forecasting can be used in weed management. For example, it was noted that
weeds such as tropical soda apple, a common weed in pastures, increases in wet weather.
Preventative action could be taken according to the predicted forecast.

Freezes are a major hindrance for citrus crops. Accurate winter temperature predictions
could be extremely useful. However, because they are perennials, other climate
predictions may not be of much use.

Other Important Factors

A key aspect of climate forecasting is reliability. Farmers must have confidence in the
forecast in order to respond in any significant way. The general impression from District
IV is that farmers do not have much confidence in climate predictions. However, if
predictions were accurate, they would use them.

Seasonal climate and weather influence consumer habits. For example, in the summer
when the weather is very warm people can be expected to consume more fruits and
vegetables.

One extension agent emphasized the need to know the climate forecast of foreign markets
and how other places will be affected by weather. For instance, if local growers could
anticipate inclement conditions in foreign production areas, they could increase
production. "It's all about market."









DISTRICT V- South

Background

District V, south Florida, consists of 10 counties, of which eight were visited (Broward,
Collier, Dade, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Monroe, and Palm Beach). This district rarely
experiences freezes. Its soils range from some of the best organic soils in the U.S. near
Lake Okeechobee to sandy soils with deep water tables that make irrigation difficult in
drought conditions. Land use in this district is characterized by conversion to urban
development in the coastal areas and agriculture based mainly on citrus, other tropical
fruits, sugar cane, mixed vegetables, and ornamentals. Several extension agents stated
that currently market conditions are much more important than climate or weather in
determining farmers' strategies about what to plant and when. Most of this District's
crops face strong competition from abroad.

Sugarcane is a major crop in District V, being first or second in importance in several
counties. Planted through vegetative cuttings, it is harvested annually, with rootstock
providing sprouts for the following year's production. Large farms dominate the
production of sugarcane. The cost of labor and the demands of sugar mills are more
important than weather in affecting the profits and timing of sugar cane activities.
Sugarcane is irrigated using a dike and flooding system and is typically fertilized four to
five times a year.

Citrus also is first or second in economic production in several counties in District V.
The district is favored for citrus because freezes rarely occur. The two types of irrigation
used for citrus are ditch and dike, and micro spray. All groves use ditch and dike, while
some also use micro spray. Few have the capacity to irrigate all of their acreage with the
latter technology. Florida citrus is in competition with citrus from California, Brazil and
other areas, hence climate predictions for those regions are of great interest to Florida
citrus farmers.

In Glades and Hendry counties, cattle production is of great economic importance and
occupies the largest amount of land. Scales of production vary considerably. Large-scale
producers characterize some counties, while small-scale holders dominate the more
urbanized counties, such as Lee.

The main vegetable crops in this district are tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes,
watermelon, other melons, and leaf crops such as lettuce, and Chinese cabbage. Some of
these counties are regional and even national leaders in the value of vegetable production.
The fields are irrigated with a ditch and dike system and some of the holdings are quite
large for vegetable operations, typically ranging from 600-800 acres in Palm Beach
County. Several of these crops compete with producers in California and Mexico. The
profitability of these crops is heavily influenced by the prices in competing regions.
NAFTA was mentioned as a major cause of low prices to Florida farmers due to cheap
Mexican imports. These low prices contribute to economic insecurity among farmers in
this line of production.










In Broward and Dade Counties, ornamental horticulture, including houseplants, bedding
plants, and woody landscape plants, is the main form of agriculture. Urban development
has led to the proliferation of golf courses and an increased demand for turf. The
purchase of nursery products for landscaping is often determined more by scheduling of
construction than by weather or climate.

Weather/Climate Impacts and Existing Responses

Sugar
Periods of low rainfall have minimal effects on sugarcane, as it is irrigated. Conversely,
extremely wet conditions can lead to fungus problems in the crop. Wet conditions at the
time of harvest lower the sugar content of the cane, reducing its harvest value. Periods of
heavy precipitation can also leach fertilizer from the soil. A wet fall from El Nifio would
lower the sugar production and the profits. Cane is slightly more freeze tolerant than
citrus and is protected by flooding the fields. In extremely dry conditions, irrigation is
adequate to maintain production on organic soils, while on sandy soils, it may be
impossible to provide adequate irrigation. High winds can knock over sugarcane,
spoiling the crop and complicating harvest.

Citrus
Citrus became established in south Florida as severe freezes destroyed groves in the
northern and central parts of the state. Dry conditions have little impact on orange
production because all groves are irrigated. Wet conditions may lead to fungus problems
and can reduce the quality of the crop by lowering the sugar content of the fruit. The
impacts of a dry event in a La Nifia winter may lead to unwanted multiple periods of
flowering. This in turn causes fruit to ripen at different times on the same tree, thereby
requiring multiple harvests in one year, which increases labor costs. An extremely dry
event in the winter can cause the flowers to weaken to the point where they will not
produce fruit.

Vegetables
Leaf crops are the most susceptible to a freeze and are also quite vulnerable to fungus
problems. Freezes are quite uncommon in this district, but if a short freeze is expected
farmers commonly flood their fields for protection. Planting and harvesting dates can not
be changed much in response to the weather because crops must be ready for market by a
given date. Changes in irrigation are used to adjust to dry or wet periods. Fungicides are
applied in advance of extreme wet conditions.

Cattle
Production of cattle is based on hay and forage production, which in this area is a
function of rainfall. Warm winters combined with precipitation can cause the
proliferation of army worms, which consume grasses thus competing with livestock.
Climate and production in competing markets such as Texas and Mexico, as well as trade
agreements such as NAFTA directly influence the cattle industry. A drought in a
competing market can cause ranchers in those areas to sell off livestock, causing a market









glut and a drop in prices. Extreme hot weather stresses cattle. This can lead to lower
calving productivity and low milk production in dairy cows.

Ornamental Horticulture
Climate risks to nurseries in District V are minor, because frosts are few and the crops are
irrigated. One extension agent said that climate prediction would have little impact on
nursery management. Extreme storm events such as hurricanes are the major concern for
ornamental horticulture. Purchases of crop insurance have increased in response to this.

Potential Responses to Improved Climate Information

Sugar
While some extensionists saw no use for climate predictions in sugarcane production,
others identified some potential application. With climate prediction information
sugarcane farmers could plant earlier to harvest before wet weather, but this still might
result in lower growth and less profit. If a season of heavy rainfall is anticipated, farmers
could better prepare to drain fields and plan fungicide treatments. Such an expectation
also would affect the scheduling of fertilizer applications. All the sugarcane farmers
irrigate, so no new response to lower rainfall predictions would be expected. Two agents
felt that, regardless of predictions, changing the timing of sugarcane harvests is difficult,
because the growers are contracted to provide the mills with a certain amount of
sugarcane by a specified date.

Citrus
Because citrus is a perennial, there is little flexibility to change planting strategies or
variety selection in response to weather or climate data. When growers anticipate a freeze
they can flood or spray the groves so that heat is released to the trees and fruit as the
water freezes. With more long-term prediction of extreme cold events, growers would
ensure that their pumping and spray irrigation equipment is in working order. If growers
expected an extremely wet period they could apply fungicides in advance. Beyond this,
agents felt there were not many actions citrus growers could take in response to improved
climate prediction.

Mixed vegetable farming
It was generally felt that vegetable growers in this District would reap greater benefit
from climate predictions than other producers, especially in planning management
strategies such as planting, irrigation, harvest, pest control, etc. The lead time of the
prediction required would vary according to the crop and the type of operation. One
agent said that 120-day climate predictions would be useful for tomatoes. As with other
crops, advance knowledge of wet periods could prompt farmers to apply fungicides in a
more timely way. It was also pointed out that if farmers knew about a wet season they
could plant less leaf crops. However, farmers might decide that the risk of losses is
outweighed by the potential gain of higher prices. This agent called farming "Vegas with
a plow." Since the price of vegetables is so affected by production in competing regions it
was emphasized that climate predictions in these regions would be very useful to farmers
in deciding what and how much to plant.










Cattle and Livestock
If forewarned of a dry period, farmers could plant more hay in advance to maintain herds.
Three-month precipitation predictions affecting pasture availability could be especially
valuable for planning to sell less productive heifers. This would reduce feed and forage
requirements and help avoid selling at low cattle prices. Prediction of rainfall would also
be valuable for planning fertilizer applications for hay. Though frosts in District V are
rare, prediction of a frost could be useful in the planning a hay harvest. Predictions of
warm winters might help farmers make plans for pest control for the following season.

Landscaping, Ornamentals and Nurseries
Market issues supercede climate issues and basically determine varieties and plants
grown. Due to intensive management, climate issues have minor implications for nursery
products. One agent felt that, at the present, predictions do not affect crop decisions. The
prediction of precipitation would be valuable for turf management, specifically in
management of fertilizer applications.

Other Important Factors

In District V a number of secondary land uses mainly related to urban development are
impacted by climate and could benefit from better predictions. With urbanization, storm
and hurricane prediction would have increasing importance for building construction and
homeowner protection, including protecting ornamental vegetation.

The trend toward conversion of agricultural land to urban development is especially
prevalent in District V. Population growth leads to increased land values and taxes,
which serve as great economic incentive for farmers to sell their land. Extensionists
surveyed in six of the eight counties noted this situation. One extensionist stated,
"Contrary to popular belief, farming is an industry which, like a factory, can be moved to
other regions of the world." He predicted that in ten years agriculture would be non-
existent in his county. In the past six years, the number of growers in Lee County has
been reduced by more than half. In Collier County, golf courses are a major industry and
a factor in the loss of agricultural land, along with urban sprawl. It was said that many
farmers avoid capital gains taxes by swapping land with developers who buy cheaper
land to the north. Although agriculture is declining in the western coastal counties (Lee
and Collier), agriculture and cattle ranching continue to be of major economic importance
in the eastern and inland counties of District V.

In Dade County there were concerns that the already high water tables in certain areas
would rise further from the planned restoration of the Everglades. This would further
increase the risk of flooding associated with high rainfall events. The need for a study
on this issue has been expressed to water management officials.











FORESTRY

The production of pine for pulp and sawtimber is a major agricultural activity in Florida,
covering the majority of the panhandle. Climate prediction clearly has applications to
various aspects of both large-scale industrial forestry and non-industrial private forest
(NIPF) landowners.

Plantation Establishment

Seedlings are outplanted to the field in the early spring. Ideally new plantations have an
80% survival rate of seedlings. However, lack of rainfall can lead to seedling death,
requiring re-planting of the plantation, which significantly increases establishment costs.
In one example from 1997, an extension agent said he would have suggested that
landowners delay outplanting for a year if he would have known of the upcoming spring
drought. With predictions of precipitation, agents could assist in planning of seedling
outplanting.

Prescribed burning

Periodic burning keeps forest fuel levels low by avoiding the buildup of vegetation,
which can lead to intense, stand destroying fires during droughts. The practice of
prescribed burning requires great attention to details of wind, precipitation, and
temperatures. While predictions of weather conditions are needed for burn execution,
climate prediction would be valuable for long-term scheduling of controlled burns. For
example, prediction of a period of heavy precipitation followed by drought would
indicate a buildup of vegetation followed by extreme stand flammability. This
information would be useful in the scheduling of burns to control fuel levels.

Pest control

Drought stressed trees are made vulnerable to infestations of the southern pine beetle, a
major pest of commercial pine species. Trees damaged by the southern pine beetle are in
turn more vulnerable to drought and fire. Aerial photographs are used to identify
infestation. Infested stands can be salvage harvested to prevent spread of infestation. We
speculate that with the prediction of drought, efforts to counteract the attack of southern
pine beetle would be reinforced.

Harvesting and Thinning

Climate prediction can be used in harvest scheduling, an important part of forestry.
Excessive precipitation can limit access to stands for harvest, especially in cypress and
other lowland stands. One agent suggested that with prediction of a wet season,
extensionists could recommend that owners of high stands hold their timber until supply
drops to take advantage of higher prices. With drought prediction, recommendations









could be made for an early harvest to avoid the market glut. While a thinning executed
during drought can stress the residual stand due to mechanical damage, prediction of a
drought can encourage landowners to thin before the drought, thus reducing competition
for water and nutrient resources during the drought.

Competing Markets

Forest products of Florida compete with pulp and paper from other parts of the country.
If an extension agent had the time and knowledge to analyze climate predictions of
competing regions, decisions could be made to improve the profitability of forestry in
Florida.

Pine Straw Harvesting

With the prediction of drought, landowners may decide to delay harvesting of pine straw
to help maintain soil moisture.

It was noted that large-scale forestry operations would be better able to use climate
prediction, and that small-scale landowners were often constrained by the FIP and CRP
program requirements.

OTHER USERS

Though not directly related to the agricultural focus of this project, other potential
applications of climate prediction were identified through the sondeo process. These
include: disaster aid, watershed management, forestry and wildlife, marine management,
tourism and recreation, the pest control industry, the insurance industry, transportation,
and exotic plant invasions.

Disaster Prevention and Aid

Clearly one of the most broadly used applications of weather and climate forecasting is
the anticipation of storms. As forecasting of bad weather allows preparation to minimize
negative effects, prediction of a season of bad climate can give the opportunity for long
term preparation. In relation to urban development, storm and hurricane prediction
would have increasing importance for building construction and homeowner protection,
including protecting ornamental vegetation.

Water Management Districts

Climate predictions could be very valuable for the water management districts of Florida.
In some instances it was noted that water management districts already have excellent
information. Reportedly, however, this information is not always shared freely with the
extension offices. Potential applications for watershed management encompass many
demands, such as urban water supply, wetlands restoration, and aquifer management.









The South Florida Water Management District currently restricts but does not yet enforce
water use.

Marine Management

The link between climate and marine resources was mentioned as an area that needs
further research. References were made to the effects of climate on access to fishing and
on algal blooms.

Tourism and Recreation

Extension agents mentioned both the effects of tourism on weather reporting and the
effects of prediction on tourism and recreation. In an effort to retain the tourist
population, weather or climate extremes are under reported. Conversely, unfavorable
weather or climate predictions could seriously damage this industry. Land previously
used for agriculture is being converted to golf courses and development. Golf courses
demand expanses of turf, requiring intensive management. Precipitation prediction
would be very valuable for the management of golf course turf, specifically fertilizer
applications and the control of algal blooms. This is an industry with lots of money
demanding exacting management.

Agrochemical and Insurance Industries

Extensionists noted that agrochemical and insurance industries already use climate
forecasting in an effort to maximize profits. One extensionist stated that these industries
obtain this information through commercial or in-house research. Open access to climate
prediction information would affect both providers and users of agrochemicals and
insurance services.

Exotic plant species, diseases, and insects

Ocean currents can introduce non-native plant species. In the Keys, low-pressure
systems have introduced non-native insects and associated diseases. Climate prediction
could be used in efforts to counteract these invasions.


INFORMATION DISSEMINATION
Current Practices

Currently, extension agencies and farmers rely on some sources of weather information.
This information is more related to short-term forecasts. Farmers use this information in
farm management for fast responses.

Data Transmission Network (DTN) is considered a relatively accurate source of
information. The system provides not only 15-minute weather updates but also price and
market information for farm commodities. Large-scale farmers and county extension









agencies most commonly count on this private system. Farmers without direct access to
the system sometimes call the agents for DTN-provided information. It is also common
to find this system at distributors' and dealers' stores where the farmers generally can
have free access. Although DTN provides mostly five-day weather forecasts, it also
presents general 30 and 90-day forecasts.

Local television, newspapers, extension newsletters, the Farmer's Almanac, trade
publications, The Weather Channel, and NOAA radio are other sources of weather
prediction on which farmers and extension agents rely. These sources are free and
acceptably accurate, although they deal mostly with short-term forecasts.

Extension agents mentioned that farmers also obtain weather or climate information
through their own experience. Agents also believe that farmers' meetings serve as an
important exchange of weather and climate information.

In recent years, the Internet has emerged as an accessible and increasingly used medium
for farmers, but the degree to which it is relied upon is not clear in many counties. All
the extension agencies have Internet access and WebPages. Many extension agents
currently use this medium to obtain and/or deliver weather and climate information. A
newsletter survey revealed that 54% of the farmers in Citrus County prefer to get data
about weather on the Internet. A large number of web pages provide information of
relevance to agricultural decision-making, including FAWN, University of Florida, and
Auburn University.

Potential Practices

Some agents believe that the Internet is very appropriate for disseminating climate
forecasts because it provides easy access, particularly for computer owners, and the
information can be quickly updated. Some agents already present weather information
through their county WebPage.

Other means of possible climate forecast delivery mentioned by the agents were quarterly
newsletters, annual or semi-annual growers' meetings, and CD-ROM creations. It was
also proposed that guest speakers be invited to the growers' meetings. These guest
speakers would be specialists in climate forecasts.

Improved climate information from NOAA and agents could be directly provided to local
TV, radio stations, and newspapers for dissemination.

In some counties on-farm trials were suggested as a means of validating the use of
climate forecast information for cropping strategy.

One extension agent mentioned that how the climate information is disseminated should
not be a big issue. The more important concern is that the farmers obtain the information,
regardless of the source.











CONCLUSIONS

Florida is a very diverse agricultural state with a range of climate conditions. Moreover,
the characteristics of weather and climate of primary interest to farmers vary
geographically. In north Florida and the Panhandle for example, late hurricanes, timing
of frosts, and drought are most important while in central Florida it is the occurrence of
frosts and water allocations, and in south Florida it is flooding and hurricanes.

In the north, farms more commonly engage in a number of activities that may include
traditional row cropping along with the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, livestock, and
forest products. In the south, large-scale plantations and ranches specializing in single
commodities are more prevalent. In general, it appears that the more diverse operations
in the north, which are often smaller than many in the south, are in a better position to
respond to climate predictions. The ability to respond also depends on the commodities a
farmer is producing.

Different attitudes were found among extension agents about their willingness to
disseminate climate information and recommend strategies and practices based on
climate predictions. This may be a reflection of the agents' perceptions regarding both
reliability and the ease with which farmers could respond to such information.

At a local scale, market was found to be a more important factor than climate. However,
since climate conditions in competing supply regions have a profound impact on prices,
climate predictions in these areas would be very important in farmers' decision-making
process.

It should be noted that competing producers and other stakeholders such as chemical
suppliers, insurance companies, produce buyers, relief aid agencies, and banks would
also benefit from climate prediction, and often to the detriment of farmers.

Climate prediction can be used either to compete with or cooperate with producers of
other regions.

Most farmers already use weather predictions for short-term decision making. More
widespread use of climate prediction by farmers depends on accurate and reliable
predictions.

Farmers would prefer a more localized rather than regional forecast because
microclimatic variability even within a single farm is often very high.

As with any new technology, it may take a number of years and successful application
before agricultural strategy is altered in response to climate forecasts. Farmers will have
to see better crops and better profits from using improved climate prediction before it is









adopted. Farmers with the most limited resources and income may be less able to alter
their strategies.

Some of the more notable potential uses of climate prediction for farmers include:
-Cropping strategy (species, maturity, variety, timing, and location)
-Pest management
-Irrigation/drainage management
-Herd size and composition management
-Pasture management
-Forestry (plantation establishment, controlled burning, harvest planning, pest
management)
-Facilities and infrastructure management and development
-Fire regime management

Crops that are most flexible in response to climate prediction include row crops and
forestry in the north, vegetables in the center, vegetables in the south, and cattle
throughout the state.

Through the sondeo it became clear that the management of cattle, pasture and hay would
have fairly similar responses to climate predictions throughout the state. In contrast,
other potential agricultural responses would be more localized.


RECOMMENDATIONS

There is a need for coordination among public agencies in disseminating climate
prediction information.

NOAA should work closely with and provide training to extension agents to ensure that
the generated information becomes increasingly useful to local agricultural needs and
compatible with local agricultural conditions.

Extension personnel should be involved in the crop modeling efforts to make the results
more useful to the extension services.

Farmers who produce crops for which the crop models are being developed are more
likely to benefit from improved information. Therefore, modeling should concentrate on
crops raised by many farmers. To be most useful, these models should focus on crops for
which climate-responsive alternatives in management strategy are feasible, for example,
because of more flexible marketing windows.

To the extent possible, climate models should be more specific spatially and temporally
because variability within a region is an obstacle to the use of climate predictions.






25


Information on how to directly access NOAA's weather and climate forecasting should be
made available to extension agents and farmers. The same information source ideally
should provide links to global and historic climate data.



REFERENCE

Hildebrand, P.E. 1981. Combining disciplines in rapid appraisal: The Sondeo approach.
Agricultural Administration 8:423-432.




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