Tools

The tools presented below represent a portion of the tools available for the climate and agriculture in the Midwest. The tools range from specialized calculators to maps, models and datasets estimating a variety of outputs (e.g., crop production, greenhouse gas flux, and species distribution). Certain tools may be more relevant to land managers to aid in year-to-year decision-making, while others are more useful for researchers studying agriculture and climate change. Keep in mind that all tools have limitations and make assumptions that may not be appropriate for  user's climate/region/crop/soil type. USDA does not endorse the tools presented below. The tool list is provided for informational purposes only, and is not exhaustive. For a list of all tools available on the Climate Hubs website, visit

The suite of decision-support tools was a product of this effort to help producers make better long-term decisions on what, when and where to plant, and how to manage crops for maximum yields and minimum environmental damage. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) was a partner in this effort and is proud to be a co-host of the project’s suite of decision-support tools.

Through its research, engagement of Corn Belt farmers, and publications, the project has provided farm management strategies, which farmers can put in place throughout the Corn Belt to make corn-based cropping systems more resilient to the current and predicted impacts of climate change...management practices were evaluated by multi-disciplinary teams of project researchers. Published results included 119 findings and 59 recommendations. For example... • Controlled drainage can reduce offsite nitrate loss to surface water from drained cropland; the systems do not reduce the nitrate concentration in tile drains, rather a reduction in nitrate loss is a result of reduced drain flow from the land • Cereal rye cover crops are effective for reducing nitrate and sediment losses from a variety of cropland landscapes • To reduce nitrous oxide emissions in a corn-soybean system, replacement of corn with another crop, such as soybean or wheat, can achieve a greater reduction than what can be achieved solely through improved crop management • Farmers are generally confident in their capacity to adapt to adverse weather; highly confident farmer are less likely to have experienced negative impacts of extreme weather.

A changing climate introduces challenges for producers in the Midwest.  To help farmers adjust their practices or even transform their operations to meet these challenges, the USDA Northeast, Midwest, and Northern Forests Climate Hubs collaborated to develop Adaptation Resources for Agriculture: Responding to Climate Variability and Change in the Midwest.  This is a compilation of information about climate change considerations and responses.  Authors from the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Agricultural Research Service teamed up to review climate change literature and develop easy to understand guidance for on-farm decision-making.

The ACPF watershed planning toolbox is intended to leverage modern data sources and help local farming communities, better address soil and water conservation needs. We believe water quality challenges can be better met by improving the quality of information used to identify conservation options in watersheds and on farms. High-resolution geo-spatial datasets that can improve the information base available for conservation planning have recently become available. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) toolbox can be used within the ArcGIS® (Ver. 10.2 – 10.5) environment to analyze soils, land use, and high-resolution topographic data to identify a broad range of opportunities to install conservation practices in fields and in watersheds. These opportunities can then inform of a non-prescriptive approach to encourage farmers and landowners to become engaged in local watershed improvement.

NRCS works with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners across the country to help them boost agricultural productivity and protect our natural resources through conservation. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you. Technical assistance is also available online through Conservation Client Gateway.

The Midwest Cover Crop Council (MCCC) Cover Crop Decision Tools are web-based systems to assist farmers in selecting cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations.

The Regional Mesonets And Partners Project (RMP) is a collaboration of multiple states and mesonet groups. It offers the opportunity to see the regional value of mesonet data when various networks are brought together. The MRCC is host to operational product maps from various mesonet groups around its region, which are updated daily. Mesonets are a collection of observation stations that gather information about the environment such as atmospheric, soil, and moisture conditions (see the Summary Table of Midwest Mesonets on the Data Networks page). Mesonets are often developed to serve a particular audience such as a state’s agricultural community, but the data collected can often be valuable to other groups outside of their target audience.