Previous research shows that Florida's climate and agricultural production are influenced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, suggesting that farmers and ranchers might use new methods of climate forecasting to modify management, increase profits and reduce economic risks. The purposes of this paper are to describe the framework used by a Florida Consortium (FC) of researchers to assess the potential use of climate forecasts in agricultural decision-making and to summarize what was learned in the research process. The framework includes components for generation, communication and use of climate information as well as an implementation and evaluation component. Results showed that winter months are affected most by ENSO phase (higher rainfall and lower temperatures in El Niño years and the opposite during La Niña years). Yields of most crops were significantly associated with ENSO phase as were prices of some commodities. Through various mechanisms of interacting with farmers, ranchers, and extension faculty, we learned that interest in climate forecasts varied widely from highly optimistic to skeptical, and that these clients had good ideas of how to vary management if they have good forecasts. Case studies aimed at understanding potential value and risks associated with use of climate forecasts were conducted for winter fresh market tomato, cow-calf operations, and peanut production. Analytical results, confirmed by interactions with clients, showed significant value in using climate forecasts to alter specific decisions. Risks of using climate information varied among commodities, with considerable risk found in tomato due to the strong link between production and price. Perhaps the most important lesson learned was the importance of engaging trusted advisors in research and outreach efforts. A major output of the project was the close cooperation established between the FC and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Prospects for sustaining a climate information program in Florida are high due to joint research and extension initiatives.
Agricultural Systems – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2002
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