UF Web-Based System Launches ‘Climate Indicators Tool’ to Help Producers

Clint ThompsonFlorida

Growing Degree Days Calculator, part of the new Climate Indicators Tool. By Brad Buck, UF/IFAS.

A new University of Florida (UF)-developed web-based tool will help growers reduce risks that come with climate variability.

It is called the “climate indicators tool,” the newest addition to AgroClimate, a web-based platform designed 15 years ago by Clyde Fraisse, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Growers can use the new tool to track weather conditions and indicators in places where there isn’t a weather station in the vicinity of their farm, Fraisse said.

“The potential impacts of weather on agriculture can be better understood when typical meteorological variables such as precipitation and temperature are translated into measures that can better help us understand the effects of climate on crop development and yield,” said Fraisse, lead author of a new Ask IFAS document on the climate indicators tool.

Tool Tracking

Among other things, the tool tracks:

  • Growing-degree days, also called “heat units.” These are based on the fact that a plant develops only when the average temperature exceeds a base temperature. This can help growers track if crops are developing faster or slower and when certain critical development phases are reached.
  • Chill accumulation – Plants need cooler temperatures when they’re dormant in the winter so they can resume normal growth in the spring. Scientists call this exposure a “chilling accumulation requirement.”
  • Temperature-humidity index – the combination of air temperature and humidity that can help quantify heat stress in livestock.

The module can also tell users about climate anomalies, like when daily minimum temperatures in Florida have been above normal during the last eight to 10 years — a trend that most likely will lower the yield of certain crops.

Additionally, the new tool lets growers track current weather conditions up to the previous day and also compare current observations — for instance, amount of rainfall in the last 15 days — to the historical observations for the same period during the last 40 years.

Disease-Alert Systems

Among other things, AgroClimate hosts disease-alert systems for strawberries, blueberries and citrus. The systems tell growers when to take action to control diseases or updates about stress indicators.

Also on AgroClimate, you can find seasonal forecasts and educational materials about the effects of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on Florida weather patterns and information about how growers can become more resilient to extreme weather events.

Thousands of people already use AgroClimate. It accumulates about 40,000 to 50,000 page views annually, although it’s difficult to estimate how many of those are producers, Fraisse said.

“The most popular tools on AgroClimate are the strawberry and blueberry advisory systems as well as tools like chill accumulation and growing-degree day calculators,” he said.

Source: UF/IFAS