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Connecting Drought Early Warning to the Decision Making Needs of Specialty Crop Producers in the Midwestern United States

Under a project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sectoral Applications Research Program, Connecting Drought Early Warning to the Decision Making Needs of Specialty Crop Producers in the Midwestern United States, the NDMC has created a set of decision calendars that provide month-by-month and seasonal advice on how growers manage production of Midwestern apple, grape, cranberry and irrigated potato crops during drought years. Fact sheets highlighting appropriate drought and climate tools for  monitoring conditions during the growing seasons and beyond are also available. 

To create the resources, the project team met with specialty crop growers in three Midwestern states (Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri) and conducted focus groups to learn what they considered to be the most important decisions they made, when they made them and how those decisions led to better vegetable and fruit production outcomes during drought. Discussing those issues and other related topics helped lead to the development of decision calendars and fact sheets. 

The decision calendars feature up to four categories — crop phenology, management decisions, drought concerns and outcome observed — of information per month. The June slice of the Midwest apple calendar, for instance, advises that the cell division stage of development has concluded (crop phrenology) and that it’s time to begin thinning the fruit and focusing on pest management (management decisions) because drought-stressed trees may be more susceptible to borers (drought concerns). 

The associated fact sheet on drought and climate tools for perennial fruit production provides growers with information on using tools such as the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), Evaporative Stress Index (ESI), and maps of soil moisture, soil temperature, and snowfall at appropriate times throughout the year to inform decision-making. The fact sheet also highlights new tools that can help growers of perennial crops imagine future growing conditions in their region and plan strategically using that information. 

Climate Information Needs of Midwest Specialty Crop Growers is a project of the National Drought Mitigation Center and the University of Wisconsin, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Midwest Climate Hub and the National Integrated Drought Information System. We are grateful for the participation of advisors representing Iowa State University, the Iowa Winegrowers Association, University of Missouri Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, and Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. The project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Sectoral Applications Research Program.

 

Links to decision calendars and fact sheets

Annual vegetable crops:

Potato decision calendar / Print version

Annual veggie drought monitoring resources fact sheetPrint version

 

Perennial tree and vine fruit crops:

Apple decision calendar / Print version

Grape decision calendar / Print version

Perennial fruits drought monitoring resources fact sheet / Print version

 

Cranberry crops:

Cranberry decision calendar / Print version

Cranberry drought monitoring resources fact sheet / Print version

 

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