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 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Introduction
 Location
 Target audience and methods
 Findings
 Conclusions
 Reference






Group Title: Southeast Climate Consortium technical report series - Southeast Climate Consortium - SECC-05-003
Title: Perceptions and attitudes of smallholder farmers in north central Florida regarding the potential usefulness of seasonal climate forecasts
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 Material Information
Title: Perceptions and attitudes of smallholder farmers in north central Florida regarding the potential usefulness of seasonal climate forecasts
Series Title: Southeast Climate Consortium technical report series
Physical Description: 11 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Canales, Gina
Southeast Climate Consortium
Publisher: Southeast Climate Consortium
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 2005
 Subjects
Subject: Farms, Small -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Crops and climate -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 10-11).
Statement of Responsibility: Gina Canales ... et al..
General Note: "Publication of the Southeast Climate Consortium Technical Report Series: SECC-05-003, Gainesville, FL, July 2005."
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
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Bibliographic ID: UF00056177
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 by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 70048674

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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page 1
    Introduction
        Page 2
    Location
        Page 3
    Target audience and methods
        Page 4
    Findings
        Page 5
        Market
            Page 5
        Vegetable producers
            Page 6
        Cattle
            Page 7
        Orchards
            Page 8
    Conclusions
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Reference
        Page 10
        Page 11
Full Text





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7TENR PEOPLE i


IAUItAMAI


,.. UNIVERSITY OF
V" FLORIDA
IFAS
1 785


Perceptions and attitudes of smallholder
farmers in north central Florida regarding
the potential usefulness of seasonal climate
forecasts


Gina Canales, Britt Coles, Camilo Comejo, Trey Fletcher, Tirhani Manganyi,
Kwadwo Owusu, Katie Painter, Harry Pellish, Ethan Stonerook, and David Wilsey
Coordinated by: Peter Hildebrand, Norman Breuer, and Victor Cabrera

Publication of the Southeast Climate Consortium Technical Report Series:
SECC-05-003, Gainesville, FL, July 2005













PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES OF SMALLHOLDER FARMERS IN NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
REGARDING THE POTENTIAL USEFULNESS OF SEASONAL CLIMATE FORECASTS






Gina Canales1, Britt Coles2, Camilo Cornejo3, Trey Fletcher2, Tirhani Manganyi1,
Kwadwo Owusu4, Katie Painter2, Harry Pellish2, Ethan Stonerook5, and David Wilsey2

Coordinated by: Peter Hildebrand6, Norman Breuer7, and Victor Cabrera7


' Graduate Student, Department of International Extension, University of Florida.
2. Graduate Student, Department of Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida.
3 Graduate Student, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of
Florida.
4 Graduate Student, Department of Geography, University of Florida.


' Graduate Student, International Extension, University of Florida
2 Graduate Student, Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida
3 Graduate Student, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Florida
4 Graduate Student Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida
5 International Extension
6 Geography
7 Interdisciplinary Ecology
8 Interdisciplinary Ecology
4 Fisheries and Environmental Sciences
10 Interdisciplinary Ecology
" Professor, University of Florida
12 Post-doctoral research associate, University of Miami
13 Post-doctoral research associate, University of Miami








5 Graduate Student, Department of Fisheries and Environmental Sciences, University of
Florida.
6 Professor Emeritus, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Florida.
7 Post-doctoral Research Associate, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science,
University of Miami.









Introduction


Weather and climate influence society and the economy. In addition, year-to-year
variations in the timing, intensity, and duration of seasonal precipitation and extreme
temperatures have large impacts on people and the physical landscape. Seasonal climate
forecasts provide probabilistic monthly or seasonal climate predictions for the forthcoming year,
sometimes longer. (O'Brien et al., 1999). Of the many factors that contribute to climate
variation, the El Nifio Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been described as one of the most
important determinants of year-to-year climatic variability and severe impact around the globe
(Cane, 2000).

In the southeastern United States, oscillations of the Pacific Ocean surface temperature
above normal (El Nifio) and below normal (La Nifia) are a major contributing factor of seasonal
climate variation. As Breuer et al. (1999) [KTl1]reported, "El Nifio typically brings more rainfall
and cooler temperatures to Florida in the fall and winter, while La Nifia brings a warmer and
much drier than normal fall and winter." The understanding of ENSO and its use for forecasting
has advanced in recent years (Neelin et al., 1998), especially after the El Niflo event of 1982-83.
In the southeastern United States the effect of ENSO is observed to be stronger in the south than
the north, and stronger in winter-spring than in summer-fall (O'Brien et al., 1999).

Seasonal climate forecasts have only recently been available to the American public.
Advances in knowledge of sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have made it possible for
climatologists and meteorologists to predict the climate of the upcoming months or season with a
modest degree of certainty and provide such information on an operational basis (Mason et al.,
2000). Knowledge of seasonal climatic forecasts allows farmers and other users of climate
information to develop seasonal management strategies leading to potential improvements in
productivity. Although the full potential is yet to be realized, seasonal climate forecasts have
shown promise in determining planting dates, irrigation needs, crop types, fertilization, and
planting varieties. Expected market conditions, pests and diseases, and the need for farm
insurance for upcoming seasons can all be estimated using seasonal forecast (O'Brien et al.,
1999).

Groups such as the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide seasonal climate forecasts
for many regions of the world. The Southeast Climate Consortium (SECC) provides seasonal
climate forecasts and decision tools based on seasonal forecasts for the States of Alabama,
Florida, and Georgia. This information, hosted at [http://AgClimate.org] goes beyond other
climate forecasts that predict only three categories: below normal, normal, or above normal
conditions. In addition to this normalcy index, the SECC provides farmers with risk assessment
indices for three crops: peanut, potato, and tomato.

The science of climate forecasting is still young and more needs to be understood about
SST, ENSO, and other factors that affect climate variability. The present level of accuracy (skill)
is high in some regions, where the potential applications are considerable. Farmers that use
climate forecasts might reduce their exposure to risks associated with climate variability
(O'Brien et al., 1999). The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of small-scale









north Florida farmers, many of whom sell at local weekly farmers' markets, concerning the
potential usefulness of seasonal climate forecasts.

Location

The climate of north-central Florida represents a transition between the warm temperate
climate of the southeastern coastal plain and the subtropical climate of peninsular Florida. There
are four clearly defined seasons, with most rainfall occurring in the summer months. Winters are
generally mild, with at least several nights of freezing temperatures. Summers are warm and
humid with thunderstorms occurring at a predictable time almost every afternoon. [KTI2]The
landscape has been shaped by the presence of a layer of porous limestone lying close to the land
surface, which results in the formation of sinkholes, springs, and caverns. Layers of sand and
clay cover the limestone, and the land supports a diverse mosaic of forest and wetland
ecosystems.

At the time of first European contact, the people now called Timucua were growing
maize, beans and squash as staple crops. Wild plants such as red coontie (Zamiafloridana) and
white coontie and (Smilax smallii) also formed an important part of the people's diet.

Europeans used the native peoples' land and labor to increase the scale of production in
order to support the growing numbers of colonists at St. Augustine and other ports on the coast.
A combination of disease and warfare led to the extinction of the aboriginal tribes of Florida and
are reduction in agricultural production. Aside from scattered cattle ranches, there was little
formal agriculture practiced in north-central Florida until the arrival of the Seminoles in the mid-
Eighteenth century. These people practiced subsistence agriculture much like the Timucua.
Only after the Seminoles had been driven into the swamps of south Florida did European settlers
develop large-scale permanent settlements in the interior of north-central Florida.

During the mid-nineteenth century, cotton became an important export crop in the region
and cattle ranged across the landscape in large numbers. After the Civil War, cotton became less
important and livestock and citrus became the primary export crops. The relatively cold winters
of north-central Florida made large-scale citrus production more practical further south. The vast
pine forests of north and north-central Florida provided a source of turpentine, which became
one of the most important industries in the southeast. After World War Two, old growth forests
had been depleted and the importance of the "Naval Stores" industry waned. Pine trees became
important for paper production and the forests were replaced by high-density tree farms.
[KTI3]
In the latter half of the twentieth century, crops like watermelon, bell pepper, and peanut
became important to the local economy. Smaller farms produced blueberry and muscadine
grape, and more recently various horticultural and ornamental crops for sale in weekly farmers'
markets. The production of plants for use [KTI4]in commercial horticulture is also a relatively
recent phenomenon in north-central Florida. Organic farming has emerged as an important trend
in small-scale agriculture in the twenty-first century. These smallholder farmers, many of whom
market on a weekly basis at local farmers' markets, were the farmers interviewed for this study.








Target audience and methods


The team used the Sondeo methodology developed at, the Instituto de Ciencia y
Tecnologia Agricola (ICTA) in Guatemala (Hildebrand, 1981). A Sondeo is a multidisciplinary
methodology for conversation-based rapid assessment. Multidisciplinary teams include a natural
scientist and a social scientist for each interview.

Sondeos are performed without taking notes during the discussion to engender an
informal atmosphere and to allow flexibility of topics discussed. Further, the informal nature of
the discussion provides freedom to explore the specific concerns of the farmer. The team directs
the conversation to elicit the desired information, but does not follow a rigid line of questioning
nor impose a formal agenda on the interaction beyond a broad area of interest, in this case, the
potential use of climate forecasts. Through conversation and experience drawn from multiple
scientific perspectives, the Sondeo team obtains diverse data with significant input from
informants.

Following[KTI5] each interview team members individually write their notes. Team
members then discuss[KTI6] their notes to ascertain validity and inclusiveness, and to elicit
additional information that may have been overlooked by individually written no[KTI7]tes. After
each round of conversations, teams are reorganized to provide a variety of group dynamics
throughout the study. The final Sondeo report integrates the results of all conversations and the
sharing and processing of information among team members. Owing to the conversational nature
of the Sondeo, it is not quantitative because all informants are not necessarily asked the same
questions during the conversations.

This study of farmers in the north-central Florida area was designed to elicit the attitudes
and perceptions regarding potential usefulness of seasonal climate forecasts[KTI8]. Sondeos
focused on small farmers, or "smallholders[KTi9]." This was accomplished through opportunistic
interviewing at both farms and farmers' markets. There is a difference between an on-farm
interview and an interview at a farmers' market: on-farm conversations tend to take more time,
thus allowing greater depth in conversation, whereas market interviews tend to allow a greater
number of farmers to be interviewed. Each method of contacting with farmers presents
advantages and disadvantages. We managed time carefully so that the team members were able
to have sufficient conversation time with each farmer, regardless of the chosen method.

Three teams first conducted transects of the local area [KTIIo]to ascertain the natural and
cultural context of the study region. Conversations with farmers were subsequently conducted by
groups of three students over a two-week period. A total of 15 farmers participated. Some
conversations were conducted consecutively with notes taken after multiple conversations[KTII 1],
as compared to the standard method of taking notes after each conversation. This modified
method was time efficient at the farmer's markets and provided increased exposure to farmers
within a time-limited study. Because discussions at farmers' markets were shorter in duration
than on-farm discussions, impacts should be negligible. The teams then[KTI12] met as a complete
group to share and process the information from the conversations. This final meeting provided a
higher-level aggregation and analysis of information and of local trends in farmer perceptions
and attitudes regarding the usefulness of climate forecasting.










Findings

Market

Relative to other factors, markets play a large role in farm management decisions. After
all, most farmers in north-central Florida produce crops for sale rather than for home
consumption. In some cases a farmer makes few decisions beyond whether or not to enter into
production of a particular crop: decisions on variety, planting date, and harvest date are
prescribed by the buyer. One way to differentiate farmers would be to categorize them based
upon their frequency of interaction with the market. Truck farmers may visit local markets twice
weekly throughout the growing season to sell their vegetables. In contrast, some single-crop
producers make only one sale per year. The relative importance of each market transaction
differs for producers across this continuum. Farmers with few market interactions are more
dependent on buyer specifications and may therefore have less flexibility in crop management,
even though these production systems may be best served by implementing changes based upon
climate forecasts.

The contribution of farm production to total household income is another important
consideration. Flexibility in farm management for farmers that rely completely upon farm-based
production to earn a living may differ [KTI13]from those for whom farm income supplements an
off-farm primary income source. Changes in farmer perceptions and willingness to incorporate
seasonal climate forecasts across this continuum may not be obvious; those who perceive climate
forecasting as potentially beneficial, but unreliable, will have to assess aversion to risk and the
potential costs of being wrong. It may be that those who depend less on farm production for
income will be those most willing to modify their management based on climate predictions,
even if their production systems are not as likely to benefit from the climate modeling as
others.[KTIl4]

The sensitivity of a particular production system to seasonal climate variation in both the
short- and long-term is also an important factor in determining farmers' perceptions and
willingness to incorporate climate-based forecasts into their management systems. [KTI15]

The culture of the region affects how market, income, and production system combine to
influence farmers' attitudes toward climate forecasts. Many farmers are older[KTI16] and many
farms have been in operation for generations. Current management practices are an evolving
product of experience and cultural conditions that have emerged in response to socio-economic
factors over generations. What a farmer's neighbor is doing can play an important role in what
the farmer chooses to do. The following section addresses sources of information utilized by
farmers in this survey, and provides valuable insight into who the neighbors are and what they
might be saying about farm management.[KTI17]

Sources of information on climate and weather










Findings

Market

Relative to other factors, markets play a large role in farm management decisions. After
all, most farmers in north-central Florida produce crops for sale rather than for home
consumption. In some cases a farmer makes few decisions beyond whether or not to enter into
production of a particular crop: decisions on variety, planting date, and harvest date are
prescribed by the buyer. One way to differentiate farmers would be to categorize them based
upon their frequency of interaction with the market. Truck farmers may visit local markets twice
weekly throughout the growing season to sell their vegetables. In contrast, some single-crop
producers make only one sale per year. The relative importance of each market transaction
differs for producers across this continuum. Farmers with few market interactions are more
dependent on buyer specifications and may therefore have less flexibility in crop management,
even though these production systems may be best served by implementing changes based upon
climate forecasts.

The contribution of farm production to total household income is another important
consideration. Flexibility in farm management for farmers that rely completely upon farm-based
production to earn a living may differ [KTI13]from those for whom farm income supplements an
off-farm primary income source. Changes in farmer perceptions and willingness to incorporate
seasonal climate forecasts across this continuum may not be obvious; those who perceive climate
forecasting as potentially beneficial, but unreliable, will have to assess aversion to risk and the
potential costs of being wrong. It may be that those who depend less on farm production for
income will be those most willing to modify their management based on climate predictions,
even if their production systems are not as likely to benefit from the climate modeling as
others.[KTIl4]

The sensitivity of a particular production system to seasonal climate variation in both the
short- and long-term is also an important factor in determining farmers' perceptions and
willingness to incorporate climate-based forecasts into their management systems. [KTI15]

The culture of the region affects how market, income, and production system combine to
influence farmers' attitudes toward climate forecasts. Many farmers are older[KTI16] and many
farms have been in operation for generations. Current management practices are an evolving
product of experience and cultural conditions that have emerged in response to socio-economic
factors over generations. What a farmer's neighbor is doing can play an important role in what
the farmer chooses to do. The following section addresses sources of information utilized by
farmers in this survey, and provides valuable insight into who the neighbors are and what they
might be saying about farm management.[KTI17]

Sources of information on climate and weather








Farmers reported that they use of a wide variety of information sources for local weather
and seasonal climate variation. Many[KTI18] of the farmers stated that they listen to local weather
reports on TV or radio and that these reports are frequently inaccurate and are not dependable
sources of information. Two farmers mentioned using the Internet to obtain weather reports,
specifically from the U.S. Weather Service and the Florida Automated Weather Network
(FAWN).

Some farmers mentioned that they rely on extension agents for information on a variety
of farm-related questions, from weather and climate to the use of fertilizers and agrochemicals.
Generally, farmers who worked with extension agents[KTI19] trusted the individual and believed
that the agent was more reliable than other sources of data. Input suppliers were also cited as a
source of climate information.

Many[KTI20] farmers seem to rely on their own experiences, those of their neighbors, and
traditional folk wisdom to make year to year decisions regarding climate and appropriate
planting times and varieties. Several cited the Farmers' Almanac as an important source of
information; one suggested that the AgClimate website would probably offer little more than the
Almanac.

Many[KTI21] farmers plant according to the phase of the moon. Several explanations for
this were offered. Some believe that insect behavior is related to phase of the moon and pest
problems can be avoided by planting at the correct phase. Another farmer stated that moisture is
pulled to the soil surface at certain times in the lunar cycle, in the same way as tidal cycles.

Several other bits of folk wisdom were given during the discussions. One farmer plants
his spring crops as soon as it is warm enough to comfortably sleep naked[KTI22]. This same
farmer mentioned the signs of the zodiac, and "planting on the twins," or during the Gemini
zodiac period, as suggested by the Farmers' Almanac. Another farmer has a problem with
cranes over-wintering in his fields because they eat young plants, especially corn. He said that
he delays planting until the cranes have migrated.

While farmers cite many potential sources of information on climate and weather,
many[KTI23] of them seemed more attuned to market pressures and competition with regard to
decision making. Some communicate directly with buyers and plant in order to have a well-
timed harvest for demand. Others regularly plant small amounts of a wide variety of crops, in
some cases weekly, in order to ensure consistent a supply for the local farmers' market.
Many[KTI24] farmers stated they do not actively seek data on seasonal climate conditions as part
of their decision making because their market is relatively fixed and because they have already
built risk management strategies into their farming systems as a result of years of experience.

Vegetable producers

Vegetable producers have developed cultural practices that enable them to buffer
prevailing negative external effects. They stagger planting dates to ensure a steady production
and thus remain in business despite the impacts of market limitations, weather effects, and
consumer preferences[KT125]. Farmers do not operate in isolation. Farmers delimited market








zones in south and north Florida, Georgia, and extending to North Carolina. They note the
importance of taking advantage of the market window in particular zones. Market windows
determine the amount of time that farmers can economically package and ship produce. During
this time, either trucks or trains with packing capacity pick up their produce and transport it to
market. However, these trucks may not reach a farmer if the same crop is produced 100 miles
closer to the market. Nonetheless, consistent supply for local markets remains an important
priority for vegetable farmers.

Despite market restrictions, farmers indicated that they counter the effects of bad
weather, such as frost, by staggering planting dates. Diversification of crops within farms seemed
to be a security measure as well. These farmers indicated that the more diverse the crops planted
in any particular season, the higher the likelihood of consistent production[KTI26].

Most vegetable producers irrigate their crops.. Producers identified irrigation as an
important means to reduce the frost injury.

Some farmers said that a climate forecast could help them position better their crops
within the landscape of their planting fields. For example, during a cold and dry period, farmers
would plant their crops along low-lying areas[KT127].


Cattle

According to one small farmer among those interviewed who produced cattle, seasonal
climate forecasts would be most useful to producers whose income depends solely upon cattle
production because climate affects harvests and prices. In general, however, interest in seasonal
climate forecasts was limited as cattle growth does not depend directly on weather conditions.
Production decisions depend instead on market conditions.

Cattle feed mainly on planted, fertilized rye grass pasture. Brahma bulls were introduced
to the herd in the recent past so that cattle could better use fodder in the woods during poor
pasture years. Because rye grass is a cool climate plant, both planting and harvesting dates are
sensitive to climate variation. When the farmer expects high levels of rain he is less likely both to
fertilize and to cut hay. However, 2005 was the first year he could remember not fertilizing and
not getting a first cutting. The operation cannot afford to retain the normal herd size because of
the missed hay harvest. Consequently, the farmer will sell cattle at a lower weight and lower
price. The decision to forego fertilization and the initial cutting was based upon advice from a
fertilizer dealer regarding the probability of hurricanes striking Florida's coast.

In general, the farmer relies upon management information provided by local weather
reports, county extension agents, mail-order publications (e.g. Cattlemen), and prayer.
Confidence in the extension agents is high; whereas confidence in the weather service is low.
Confidence in seasonal climate forecasts might increase if they are consistent with information
the farmer obtains from other, more familiar, sources. Only then would climate forecasts become
a factor in [KTi28]farm management decisions.








Orchards


Orchards are lands used principally for cultivating tree fruits and nuts. In addition to
food production, orchards can be managed for recreation or aesthetic value. Commonly, orchards
are highly controlled and intensively managed. Florida's subtropical climate is suitable for the
culture of many fruit and nut trees; however, the trees require the application of several
agricultural inputs. Sustainability and profitability are not always correlated in these systems.
Nevertheless, some of the more difficult crops to grow, such as southern high-bush blueberries,
can be extremely profitable under the right circumstances. In contrast, muscadine grape
production is highly sustainable but offers low profitability and market potential. In order to
decide what species or cultivar to use, farmers account for the specific characteristics of the site.
The adaptability of a given species is region specific.[KTI29]

One major cause of fruit crop loss is freezing temperatures during late winter or early
spring, during flowering and early fruit development. Damage during this critical developmental
period may cause rapid loss of flowers and fruits, or injure fruits; either of which can be
devastating. Variety selection, adequate site selection and preparation, pruning, flooding, and
overhead irrigation are practices that are used to mitigate freeze damage.


Conclusions

For the small farmers interviewed, the practices that could be introduced in their farming
systems by incorporating seasonal climate forecasts[KTi30] may not significantly differ from those
that are already part of the existing management strategies. Consequently, the potential benefits
of using seasonal climate forecasts to capitalize on or mitigate climate effects are relatively low
for both vegetable and orchard production systems as compared with row crops and livestock
[KTI31](Figure 1).


Management for Environmental & Market Factors


Most of the small farmers surveyed already use techniques that reduce environmental
risk. Small-scale vegetable producers planted different crops and varieties on multiple dates to
minimize exposure to severe weather and adverse seasonal climate trends. Similarly, fruit and
nut orchard managers planted different fruits and varieties to accomplish the same effect, but in
a system that permits far less short-term decision-making. The result is that while vegetable
farms and orchards differ significantly in their planting flexibility, they both have developed
management systems that effectively mitigate environmental risk.

In contrast to vegetable production systems and orchards, row crop farmers
[KTI32]seldom have more than one opportunity per growing season to affect crop composition. It
stands to reason that increased knowledge of the climatic conditions for the coming growing
season would be of greatest benefit to those who have the least ability to respond after planting.








Orchards


Orchards are lands used principally for cultivating tree fruits and nuts. In addition to
food production, orchards can be managed for recreation or aesthetic value. Commonly, orchards
are highly controlled and intensively managed. Florida's subtropical climate is suitable for the
culture of many fruit and nut trees; however, the trees require the application of several
agricultural inputs. Sustainability and profitability are not always correlated in these systems.
Nevertheless, some of the more difficult crops to grow, such as southern high-bush blueberries,
can be extremely profitable under the right circumstances. In contrast, muscadine grape
production is highly sustainable but offers low profitability and market potential. In order to
decide what species or cultivar to use, farmers account for the specific characteristics of the site.
The adaptability of a given species is region specific.[KTI29]

One major cause of fruit crop loss is freezing temperatures during late winter or early
spring, during flowering and early fruit development. Damage during this critical developmental
period may cause rapid loss of flowers and fruits, or injure fruits; either of which can be
devastating. Variety selection, adequate site selection and preparation, pruning, flooding, and
overhead irrigation are practices that are used to mitigate freeze damage.


Conclusions

For the small farmers interviewed, the practices that could be introduced in their farming
systems by incorporating seasonal climate forecasts[KTi30] may not significantly differ from those
that are already part of the existing management strategies. Consequently, the potential benefits
of using seasonal climate forecasts to capitalize on or mitigate climate effects are relatively low
for both vegetable and orchard production systems as compared with row crops and livestock
[KTI31](Figure 1).


Management for Environmental & Market Factors


Most of the small farmers surveyed already use techniques that reduce environmental
risk. Small-scale vegetable producers planted different crops and varieties on multiple dates to
minimize exposure to severe weather and adverse seasonal climate trends. Similarly, fruit and
nut orchard managers planted different fruits and varieties to accomplish the same effect, but in
a system that permits far less short-term decision-making. The result is that while vegetable
farms and orchards differ significantly in their planting flexibility, they both have developed
management systems that effectively mitigate environmental risk.

In contrast to vegetable production systems and orchards, row crop farmers
[KTI32]seldom have more than one opportunity per growing season to affect crop composition. It
stands to reason that increased knowledge of the climatic conditions for the coming growing
season would be of greatest benefit to those who have the least ability to respond after planting.









Likewise, livestock producers[KTi33] must make pasture management decisions early in the
growing season: fertilization and irrigation of pasture can directly affect carrying capacity and
individual animal growth. However, unlike row crop systems, livestock producers might use
seasonal climate forecasts to help with decisions for several management options: how many
head to buy, how many to sell, when to plant or fertilize forage, when to buy hay, and when to
first cut forage. While these options may not result in ideal management, they impart a greater
flexibility to the production system.


Figure 1:
Seasonal Climate Forecasting &
Implications for Farm Production Systems


High Low


Potential Frequency
Benefits Row Crops Livestock of
Of Market




Low High


Frequency
Weekly Of Multi-year
Planting or Breeding



The high frequency of farmer-market interactions in vegetable and orchard production
systems relative to row crop and cattle production systems lessens the potential benefits of using
a seasonal climate forecast (Figure 1). The financial success of systems with high frequency of
market interaction (i.e. weekly) depends less on the outcome of a single transaction[KTi34]. Row
crop and livestock producers, in contrast, typically have only one opportunity to sell their
product at the end of the growing or production season. Demand and prices are subject to
significant changes outside of what is typically a small window of time. [KTI35]The commodity
nature of row crops and livestock also increases the possibility that, through futures markets,
overall demand and prices for a region are fixed well in advance of harvest or livestock sales.

Market related events that occur in other growing regions can affect farmer management
decisions. Markets in competing production regions might directly or indirectly reflect climate
affects on production in those regions. Decisions base on such events are reactions that may be
indirectly related to seasonal climate, though the window of opportunity is often too narrow to
make any changes to the production system. Nevertheless, one of the benefits related to these out








of region events could be a price differential realized within the region. Consumer demands and
expectations drive many planting decisions.

Although we only had the opportunity to interview one farmer from both the row crop
and livestock production systems, we conclude that they are potential beneficiaries of a seasonal
climate forecast, but that row crop farmers are less likely to be adopters than the livestock
producers. Specifically, management options for row crop farmers may be more limited due to
prior investments in planting, harvesting, and processing equipment specific to a particular crop
or variety, and by the inherent characteristics of the markets including wage differential paid
from state to state. We therefore conclude that small livestock producers have the greatest
potential to benefit from seasonal climate forecasts, a result supported by a previous Sondeo of
large livestock producers (Breuer et al., 2000).

Although the farmers use a number of sources of information, due to the trust the farmers
expressed in extension agents, we conclude that the Extension service is an important source of
information for producers concerning seasonal climate forecasts for those farmers for whom it is
appropriate.

References:

Breuer, N., Gilreath, P., McAvoy, G., Letson, D., and Fraisse, C. 2005. Using seasonal climate
variability forecasts: risk management for tomato production in South Florida.
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