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What's New whats
  • 30-day GDD forecast added to the Corn GDDDST
  • Improved yield penalty defaults in Corn Split NDST based on data from the Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator
  • Two upcoming U2U tool training opportunities
  • Several new peer-reviewed publications are now available
  • Follow us on Twitter for tool updates, ag-climate reports, and more!
Featured Resources FeaturedResources

U2U Educational Resources


We've pulled together a resources page that includes everything you need to quickly learn about the U2U decision support tools. Here you'll find:

  • DST User Guides
  • PowerPoints
  • Factsheets
  • Video tutorials (coming soon!)

For those of you interested in sharing information about U2U with others, the U2U Educational Resources page has an Outreach Event Checklist and templates for attendance sheets and outreach evaluation. You can also request a USB drive pre-loaded with the U2U educational resources.


Have you highlighted the U2U decision support tools in your Extension programming, used them in the classroom , or recommended them to a client? If so, we'd like to hear from you ! Tell us about your success story today.
Tool Tips and Updates tool

New feature added to the Corn GDD tool


The U2U Corn GDDDST now includes a 30-day GDD forecast (updated daily). This new

feature is a result of an ongoing collaboration between the U2U team and the National Weather Service (Ray Wolf and Tom Hultquist), and it represents a novel effort to translate monthly/seasonal weather forecasts into more usable information for the agricultural community.


By incorporating a 30-day GDD forecast into the Corn GDDDST we are able to provide more accurate estimates of important corn growth milestones (such as silking or black layer dates), and help growers adjust to short-term weather fluctuations throughout the growing season.  

Upcoming Events upcoming
National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting
July 12-16, 2015 | Lafayette, IN

Heading to the NACAA annual meeting? Stop by at the trade show (Booth #42), test drive our tools during our hands-on Super Session (July 15), or listen to our presentation during the Climate and Ag session (July 13). U2U team members Chad Hart, Dennis Todey, and Hans Schmitz will be leading these activities. Learn more at

2015 InfoAg Conference
July 28-30, 2015 | St. Louis, MO

U2U team members Jim Angel and Chad Hart will be discussing the U2U tools during a presentation (July 28) and a hands-on workshop (July 29) at the 2015 InfoAg Conference. Learn more at

AgriClimate Connection agriclimate

AgriClimate Connection is an interactive blog where farmers and scientists across the Corn Belt can learn about and discuss cutting-edge farm management strategies, weather and climate conditions, and much more. It is jointly-managed by and U2U


Recent Posts:


Corn Belt farmers' attitudes toward responses to increased weather variability

Posted on 6/29/2015 by Maaz Gardezi

Climate changes and extreme rain and heat/drought events pose significant challenges to the corn and soybean economy in the Midwestern...Read more


Posted on 5/28/2015 by Jim Angel

In early May 2015, the Climate Prediction Center reported that weak to moderate El Niño conditions were present in the Pacific Ocean basin, along the equator ...Read more


New Outlooks and Impact on the 2015 Planting Season 

Posted on 4/21/2015 by Dennis Todey

As we reach the latter part of April the whole Corn Belt is well into planting season, though corn planting progress is a little slow so far. Several contrasting issues...Read more

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for the latest updates.  

Reaching Out reaching



New publication in 
Agricultural Systems

Prokopy, L.S., C.E. Hart, R. Massey, M. Widhalm, J. Andresen, J. Angel, T. Blewett, O.C. Doering, R. Elmore, B.M. Gramig, P. Guinan, B.L. Hall, A. Jain, C.L. Knutson, M.C. Lemos, L.W. Morton, D. Niyogi, R. Power, M.D. Shulski, C. X. Song, E.S. Takle, and D. Todey. 2015. "Improving team communication for enhanced delivery of agro-climate decision support tools." Agricultural Systems. 138: 31-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2015.05.002  



In the Midwestern United States, where a third of the world's maize crop is  grown, there are few decision support tools available to help farmers and their advisors plan for an uncertain climatic future. Developing tools that are actually useful and usable to agricultural decision makers necessitates an interdisciplinary team of climate scientists, agronomists, computer scientists, and social scientists. With such diversity come varying levels of engagement (e.g. co-project director, student, technician, etc.) and experience working with farmers and/or serving in an official Extension capacity. Therefore working together to address this challenging issue is not straight-forward. This paper reviews how a survey of a large interdisciplinary team working on developing decision support tools to ensure resilient maize production in this region identified differences between team members and helped improve team functioning and communication. Specifically the team survey revealed some important differences in how team members perceive farmers' use of climate information, the types of decisions that should be addressed with a tool, and how such tools should function. These differences can be primarily explained by disciplinary background and project role and have provided valuable opportunities to learn from each other and build consensus on decision support tools developed. The survey as a feed-back tool complements other team communication approaches and reminds the team of the need for continuous communication and frequent discussion of assumptions. ( Access Full Article )


New Article in  Geophysical Research Letters


Niyogi, D, X. Liu, J. Andresen, Y. Song, A.K. Jain, O, Kellner, E. Takle, and O. Doering.  2015. Crop Models Can Capture the Impacts of Climate Variability on Corn Yield.  Geophysical Research Letters.  42(9): 3356-3363. DOI:  10.1002/2015GL063841 .



We investigate the ability of three different crop models of varying complexity for capturing El Niño-Southern Oscillation-based climate variability impacts on the U.S. Corn Belt (1981-2010). Results indicate that crop models, irrespective of their complexity, are able to capture the impacts of climate variability on yield. Multiple-model ensemble analysis provides best results. There was no significant difference between using on-site and gridded meteorological data sets to drive the models. These results highlight the ability of using simpler crop models and gridded regional data sets for crop-climate assessments. (Access Full Article)

New Article in Climate Risk Management


Haigh, T., E. Takle, J. Andresen, M. Widhalm, J.S. Carlton, and J. Angel. 2015. "Mapping the Decision Points and Climate Information use of Agricultural Producers across the U.S. Corn Belt." Climate Risk Management7: 20-30. DOI: 10.1016/j.crm.2015.01.004 (open access)



The usefulness of climate information for agricultural risk management hinges on its availability and relevance to the producer when climate-sensitive decisions are being made. Climate information providers are challenged with the task of balancing forecast availability and lead time with acceptable forecast skill, which requires an improved understanding of the timing of agricultural decision making. Achieving a useful balance may also require an expansion of inquiry to include use of non-forecast climate information (i.e. historical climate information) in agricultural decision making. Decision calendars have proven valuable for identifying opportunities for using different types of climate information. The extent to which decision-making time periods are localized versus generalized across major commodity-producing regions is yet unknown, though, which has limited their use in climate product development. Based on a 2012 survey of more than 4770 agricultural producers across the U.S. Corn Belt region, we found variation in the timing of decision-making points in the crop year based on geographic variation as well as crop management differences. Many key decisions in the cropping year take place during the preceding fall and winter, months before planting, raising questions about types of climate information that might be best inserted into risk management decisions at that time. We found that historical climate information and long term climate outlooks are less influential in agricultural risk management than current weather, short term forecasts, or monthly climate projections, even though they may, in fact, be more useful to certain types of decision making. (Access Full Article)


New Publications in the Journal of Environmental Quality  


Morton, L.W ., J. Hobbs, J. Arbuckle, and A. Loy. 2015. "Upper Midwest Climate Variations: Farmer Responses to Excess Water Risks." Journal of Environmental Quality. 44(3): 810-822. DOI:10.2134/jeq2014.08.0352 (open access)




Persistent above average precipitation and runoff and associated increased sediment transfers from cultivated ecosystems to rivers and oceans are due to changes in climate and human action. The US Upper Midwest has experienced a 37% increase in precipitation (1958-2012), leading to increased crop damage from excess water and off-farm loss of soil and nutrients. Farmer adaptive management responses to changing weather patterns have potential to reduce crop losses and address degrading soil and water resources. This research used farmer survey ( = 4778) and climate data (1971-2011) to model influences of geophysical context, past weather, on-farm flood and saturated soils experiences, and risk and vulnerability perceptions on management practices. Seasonal precipitation varied across six Upper Midwest subregions and was significantly associated with variations in management. Increased warm-season precipitation (2007-2011) relative to the past 40 yr was positively associated with no-till, drainage, and increased planting on highly erodible land (HEL). Experience with saturated soils was significantly associated with increased use of drainage and less use of no-till, cover crops, and planting on HEL. Farmers in counties with a higher percentage of soils considered marginal for row crops were more likely to use no-till, cover crops, and plant on HEL. Respondents who sell corn through multiple markets were more likely to have planted cover crops and planted on HEL in 2011.This suggests that regional climate conditions may not well represent individual farmers' actual and perceived experiences with changing climate conditions. Accurate climate information downscaled to localized conditions has potential to influence specific adaptation strategies. (Access Full Article)



Davidson, E.A., E.C. Suddick, C.W. Rice, and L.S. Prokopy. 2015. "More Food, Low Pollution (Mo Fo Lo Po): A Grand Challenge for the 21stCentury."Journal of Environmental Quality.44(2): 305-311  (open access) 




Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has been a double-edged sword, greatly improving human nutrition during the 20th century but also posing major human health and environmental challenges for the 21st century. In August 2013, about 160 agronomists, scientists, extension agents, crop advisors, economists, social scientists, farmers, representatives of regulatory agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other agricultural experts gathered to discuss the vexing challenge of how to produce more food to nourish a growing population while minimizing pollution to the environment. This collection of 14 papers authored by conference participants provides a much needed analysis of the many technical, economic, and social impediments to improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crop and animal production systems. These papers demonstrate that the goals of producing more food with low pollution (Mo Fo Lo Po) will not be achieved by technological developments alone but will also require policies that recognize the economic and social factors affecting farmer decision-making. Take-home lessons from this extraordinary interdisciplinary effort include the need (i) to develop partnerships among private and public sectors to demonstrate the most current, economically feasible, best management NUE practices at local and regional scales; (ii) to improve continuing education to private sector retailers and crop advisers; (iii) to tie nutrient management to performance-based indicators on the farm and in the downwind and downstream environment; and (iv) to restore investments in research, education, extension, and human resources that are essential for developing the interdisciplinary knowledge and innovative skills needed to achieve agricultural sustainability goals. (Access Full Article)


New Publication in the Journal of Rural Studies


McGuire, J., L.W. Morton, A. Cast and J.G. Arbuckle. 2015. "Farmer identities and responses to the social-biophysical environment." Journal of Rural Studies. 39: 145-155.  



Row crop production in the United States (US) Midwest is responsibl e for a myriad of  water pollution issues in the Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. US federal and state governments have spent billions of dollars since the 1930's to understand and develop biological and geophysical practices that will reduce the negative impacts of agriculture on these landscapes and water bodies. However, significantly fewer resources have been applied to understanding the human factor within this social-ecological system. Recently the social psychological framework known as farmer identity as been used to better understand how farmers view themselves as they perform their role as farmer. To empirically test this concept in the US state of Iowa, a farmer identity question was developed and data were collected as part of an annual survey of Iowa farmers. Four farmer identities (Productivist, Conservationist, Civic-minded, and Naturalist) are identified using principal components analysis and tested for their ability to predict support for farm policy scenarios related to soil and water resource protection. Results show that Productivist, Conservationist, and Naturalist identities were likely to be activated by soil and water policies; and the Civic-minded identity was not activated by soil and water policies in general but was significantly against more money for conservation because it might mean more regulation.( Access Full Article )


Researcher Spotlight research

Dr. Dennis Todey is the State Climatologist for South Dakota 
where he is involved with numerous activities including data collecting, overseeing the state mesonet, and developing tools for a diversity of interests ranging from agriculture to water to public safety. With an educational background in meteorology, Dennis originally hoped to become a weather forecaster. However, his interests evolved as his graduate training continued, setting the stage for Dennis to pursue a career in applied research and outreach on the interaction of agriculture and climate.  Specifically, Dennis seeks to understand how weather and climate variability throughout the central North American continent affects agriculture, and other sectors, and how we can help people deal with the resulting impacts.


As co-investigator on the U2U project, Dennis is responsible for leading decision support tool development and disseminating these tools at outreach events throughout the Corn Belt. He also provides climate expertise to support U2U social science activities, and he is a liaison between U2U and another USDA-AFRI supported group, the Corn Systems CAP.  Dennis finds it extremely interesting to work across these two projects and expand his understanding about how the agricultural sector is coping with climate change and what producers think about this issue.


Outside of work Dennis enjoys following railroads, and if you can get weather and railroads together that's twice the fun! He also enjoys various sports, playing and watching. Dennis is married with four kids, two at Iowa State University and two still at home. His wife is a middle school band teacher. This is actually how they came to meet, in various ensembles at Iowa State University. As you may have guessed, they are both originally from the Hawkeye State.  Even though it is called the Hawkeye State, everyone knows it is a "Cyclone" state!


U2U Team 2015


About Us: 

Useful to Usable (U2U) is a multi-institution research and extension project focused on improving the resilience and profitability of farms in the North Central U.S. amid a more variable and changing climate. Through the development and dissemination of decision support tools, resource materials and training, we strive to transform existing climate information into actionable knowledge for more effective decision making. 

Melissa Widhalm, Project Manager

Click here to join our mailing list.

This project is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68002-30220 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.