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Purdue University

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United States

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Useful to Usable

Researchers at nine universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture celebrated the 2017 completion of a six-year, $5 million program that reinvented the way climate scientists connect with farmers.

The Useful to Usable (U2U) project aimed to mold existing climate data into relevant products for the agricultural community. Project participants, including the National Drought Mitigation Center, first learned about the type of climate data that farmers employ when making growing decisions on their farms and how they employ that data. The team used those insights to develop products that would help farmers determine what, when and where to plant, as well as how to manage crops to maximize yields with eyes on limiting negative effects on the environment.

Researchers started by building relationships with farmers and those they work with to understand how they go about making strategic business decisions. The team found that the best way to reach those farmers was through people who already have their ear and their respect, such as crop advisors.

“A strength of the U2U project was that it started with the social science — investigating the perceptions and information needs of farmers and crop advisors,” said Cody Knutson, of the drought center. “Based on that information, the U2U team was able to work together to develop a range of new tools to help farmers make important management decisions.”

Those tools cover a wide range of climate issues with which facing farmers deal. The team took the tools to more than 150 Extension and other events across the Corn Belt, to presenting them to potential users and listening to feedback to improve those and future tools.

Team members came from Purdue University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Wisconsin, and the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.  

This project was supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

­— Brian Wallheimer, for Useful to Usable

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