We’ve all heard that famous phrase, and it hasn’t changed any through the years. Everyone always talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.
Even if farmers can’t influence the weather, they may be able to identify future trends because of today’s technology. This information certainly could help a farmer make his planting decisions for the new season.
For that very reason, the Production Conference in January at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences will feature a special report on “Identifying Cotton Belt Weather Patterns.”
Dr. John Christy, climate scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, will make the presentation. His main areas of research are satellite remote sensing of global climate and global climate change.
“Some of our producers may have heard Dr. Christy make a similar presentation at a Southern Cotton Growers/South-eastern Cotton Ginners meeting,” says Bill Robertson, Beltwide Production Conference coordinator.
“The Beltwide Production Planning Subcommittee felt that it would be very informative to have him make a similar report at the Beltwide.”
More Information Is Beneficial
According to Robertson, one of the positive aspects of Christy’s reports is his ability to communicate information that can help producers. In particular, the climate scientist believes that learning about weather trends can be useful when producers have such a diverse crop mix on their acreage.
Robertson recalls his days as the Arkansas Extension cotton specialist when he would conduct producer meetings. He would always point out the strengths and weaknesses of any variety in different weather conditions.
“That’s important information to have when you know what kind of weather is headed your way,” he says. “Identifying a weather pattern can help make a decision that is important to the bottom line.”
Robertson says weather information is also beneficial when deciding whether to plant a later maturing variety or a more determinate one.
During his previous meetings with Arkansas producers, he can recall how he would evaluate a “racehorse” variety that delivered spectacular yields – if weather conditions were perfect. Conversely, if the weather didn’t cooperate, that same variety would “tend to fold.”
On the other side of the coin are those varieties that will “hang in there and deliver good yields during the tough times.”
Because of the specific traits that all varieties have and the enormous investment that producers make, Robertson believes weather trend information is vitally important.
“I can’t recall that we’ve ever had a presentation like the one that Dr. Christy is going to make,” he says. “From the things I’ve heard about him, he’s got an important message to share with the industry.”
Expert On Climate Trends
As for Christy, he has conducted extensive research on weather trends in the past decade. He has also testified numerous times before Congress and is a strong critic of scientists who “make catastrophic predictions of huge increases in global temperatures and tremendous rises in sea levels.”
In one of his most famous statements, Christy wrote a 2007 editorial in the Wall Street Journal and offered this analysis of global warming: “I’m sure the majority of my colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see.”
When contacted about how he plans to present his weather data to the Production Conference, Christy says he’ll concentrate on the likelihood of a La Niña trend continuing.
“This is the second year in a row for this trend,” he says. “It tends to bring dryer weather south, and that’s generally not a good thing. We see how it affected cotton in Texas.”
However, he isn’t ready to blame La Niña completely for the record drought in Texas. He says a dry weather pattern established itself last spring and never shifted away.
The computer models he has examined are pointing toward warmer and dryer conditions south of 33 or 34 degrees latitude during the winter months. That wouldn’t bode well for areas that need moisture levels replenished.
Can a computer model ever be wrong? Christy says it’s possible, but when viewed objectively, the La Niña projections call for having 80 to 85 percent below normal rainfall during the six-month wet time period along the Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, his research hasn’t identified any significant trend in climate change that is affecting agriculture. Farmers, however, continue to deal with their top problem each year – the variation in rainfall levels.
“That reality is going to continue no matter what trends might come along during any year,” Christy says.
Contact Tommy Horton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (901) 767-4020.