Climate Intelligence and Agricultural Productivity Finally Meet

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To manage the impact that climate change will have on agricultural productivity, you have to measure it. With this in mind, Gro Intelligence is building out the Gro Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, a dashboard-like interface that lets users create custom visualizations of the effect that climate change - and the more extreme weather volatility it brings - is having, and will continue to have, on growing conditions anywhere in the world. 

Our Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, which gives users a view into any crop or any location’s short-term weather situation and long-term climate outlook, can generate crop and  location-specific weighted analyses in a matter of seconds. 

Users can view data at the country, state, province, district and county level. And because our application uses real time and historical data to produce location-specific soil moisture, precipitation, temperature, vegetative health, and other weather and long-term indicators as inputs, the Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture can aid in both acreage and production forecasts for an upcoming season.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Climate change is raising temperatures, altering rainfall, drought, and flood patterns, and changing the geographical distribution of pests and disease. It is also a factor that is fueling the current wheat supply shortage and making future wheat production more unpredictable. 

To mitigate this ongoing uncertainty, farmers and market participants can use the climate indicators within the Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, to monitor short-term weather variables in the context of long-term climate change trends. 

Last year’s disastrous drought in the US wheat belt underscores how climate intelligence can help farmers and other market participants mitigate risks while identifying opportunities early. 

In March 2021, before the US spring wheat season began, Gro started warning that global supplies of spring wheat could be severely curtailed. 

Throughout the US spring wheat growing season, the GCI Drought Index, the Climate Risk Navigator’s key drought indicator, started showing how hot and dry weather across the US’ northern Plains was zapping yield potential. 

The impact on crop conditions from the rising drought levels could be seen in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) weighted by spring wheat area. 

Typically, NDVI rises in May and June, peaking in mid to late July, corresponding to the key growing period. But last year, by the third week of June, NDVI was at its lowest level since 2000. Similarly, the daily soil moisture measure hit record lows around the same time and stayed at record lows into August.  

Also, in some wheat-growing states, notably in Montana, last summer’s extreme drought created ideal conditions for grasshopper infestations that further chipped away at spring wheat yields. Spring wheat makes up about one-third of total US wheat production. 

By September 2021, the US spring wheat production was on a path to its lowest production level since the late 1980s and an unusually heavy infestation of fall armyworms in US winter wheat growing regions was threatening to push growers’ pesticide costs higher. 

At the end of 2021, the Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, weighted to wheat, was showing low evapotranspiration/potential evapotranspiration (ET/PET) ratio, indicating a shortage of water for the crop. 

This year the US hard red winter wheat (HRW) crop, which was planted last fall and is currently in its dormant stage, got off to a weak start because of dry conditions in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. Since the beginning of the year, the GCI Drought Index has crept steadily higher so the crop could be in a difficult position when it emerges from dormancy in early April. April and May are HRW’s key growing months. Sufficient rainfall at that time can still make a good crop, but above average yield is highly unlikely. 

Despite an increase in HRW planted acreage, HRW production is expected to decline again this year. Dry conditions are also casting a shadow over the upcoming spring wheat planting season, as farmers will want to see soil moisture improve before planting their crop.

The Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture helps Gro users evaluate and compare crop growing conditions and crop health anywhere in the world. Its global climate indicators (GCIs) use soil moisture, precipitation, temperature, vegetative health, and other weather and long-term climate metrics as inputs. 

Contact Gro’s Sales team to schedule a demo of the Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture.

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