A newreport on farmer perspectives on climate and agriculture, gathered in a 2012survey of nearly 5,000 farmers from 11 Corn Belt states,presents surveyresults by watershed.
“FarmerPerspectives on Agriculture and Weather Variability in the Corn Belt:A Statistical Atlas” is a new publication ofthe Climate and Corn-based CroppingSystems Coordinated Agricultural Project(CSCAP), based at Iowa State University, and is available online atwww.sustainablecorn.org. The“statistical atlas”includes maps and tables that make it easy for readers to gaugefarmer perspectives within one or more of 22 major river basins in the CornBelt. Topics coveredin the atlas include beliefs about climate change,attitudes toward actions in response to increased weather variability, riskperceptions and farmer experienceswith weather extremes.
“Manyof the impacts of increased weather variability are hydrological. Andbiophysical science research is increasingly conducted using watershedboundaries,so we decided to use a watershed approach in our socioeconomicresearch design,” says J. Arbuckle, professor of sociology at Iowa State and oneof the principal investigators for the survey.
Thewatersheds that were surveyed account for more than half of all U.S. corn andsoybean production. Farmers selected for the survey were those who grew cornand who had more than $100,000 in gross farm income in 2011; these larger-scalefarmers cultivate approximately 80% of the farmland in the region.
TheCSCAP, a USDA-funded project, seeks to increase resilience and adaptability ofMidwest agriculture to more volatile weather patterns by identifying farmerpractices and policies that increase sustainability while meeting crop demand. Thesurvey was conducted in partnership with another USDA-funded project calledUseful to Usable.
“Inorder to help farmers adapt their cropping systems to more variable weather, itis important to understand their perspectives,” Arbuckle says. “Are theyconcerned about potential increases in weather, pest and disease impacts? Dothey feel prepared? The survey focused on many such questions.”
Thereport contains tables that present the data and maps that show thegeographical distribution of survey results across the Corn Belt. CSCAP intendsthe mapsand tables to be resources that Extension educators, agriculturaladvisors and other agricultural stakeholders across the region can use to helpthem understandfarmer perspectives in their local areas.
“Wehave a team of 18 Extension educators across the Corn Belt who will beincorporating the maps and tables into their work with farmers and otherstakeholders,” says Jamie Benning, Iowa State extension specialist and climate educator, who directs CSCAP Extension activities. “Many Extension educators andagricultural advisers will be talking about weather variability in workshopsand meetings with farmers. They can easily incorporate maps from this atlas intheirpresentations.”
Weathermaps also are included in the report and were developed using data fromNational Weather Service Cooperative Observer weather stations from acrosstheregion. The maps, developed by Jon Hobbs, a doctoral student at Iowa State andCSCAP team member, show differences in extreme precipitation, droughtand heatstress by watershed.
“Wehope Extension, government agencies and private sector agriculturalstakeholders across the region will find this report to be useful,” says LoisWrightMorton, CSCAP director and sociology professor at Iowa State. “A betterunderstanding of what farmers are thinking about weather extremes and their relatedexperiences and concerns, can help those of us who work with farmers do ourjobs more effectively.”
Thereport is available for download from the CSCAP website,www.sustainablecorn.org.
CSCAP, also known as the Sustainable Corn Project,convenes teams from 10 land grant universitiesand two USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratoriesacross nine midwestern states(Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakotaand Wisconsin). The teams are comprised of 90biophysical and social scientistsincluding soil scientists and agronomists, sociologists, economists,agricultural engineers, modelers and climatologists as well aseducators andExtension field specialists. One hundred and sixty five farmers within theregion also participate on the project.
The project’s scientistsare gathering and studying data from 35 field sites and thousands of midwesternfarmers, with the goal of creating a suite of practices forcorn-based systemsthat:
· Retain and enhance soilorganic matter and nutrient and carbon stocks,
· Reduce off-fieldnitrogen losses that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and waterpollution,
· Better withstanddroughts and floods and
· Ensure productivityunder different climatic conditions.