Increasing Extension Expertise to Assist Agriculture Adaptation to a Changing Climate

Progress report for ENC19-183

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $89,959.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Purdue Extension
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Hans Schmitz
Purdue Extension
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Project Information


The North Central Climate Collaborative (NC3) was formed in 2017 as an internal network of Extension Educators and Specialists with an interest in climate change and agriculture programming. Since that time, the team has held conferences and webinars to increase other educator and partner agency expertise in basic climate change issues and their effects on agriculture.  With representation in all 12 states in the North Central Region, the team now finds that deeper knowledge is needed amongst its membership to more adequately address educator questions and establish themselves as regional content experts.

         The Project will be completed in three parts.  The members of the NC3 will complete an in-depth questionnaire to assess comfortability and knowledge in climate change and agriculture programming.  Based on results, needs will be identified within the community and an agenda for a three day conference held in a central location within the North Central Region will be held.  Speakers and activities at this conference will target knowledge gaps and present new research and findings within the field.  Attendees will return to their states with greater knowledge as well as hands-on resources and/or lesson plans for programs to present around the region.  Standard evaluations will also be disseminated for use with clientele, to be returned and aggregated region-wide.  After six to nine months of leaving the conference, medium-term impact on knowledge gained, programs provided, and use of resources provided will be assessed using surveys of attendees.

Project Objectives:

As a result of this activity, we will have at least 24 Extension Educators or Specialists educated, two from each state in the North Central Region.

Extension Program Leaders in each state will recognize attending educators or specialists as having a specialty in climate change and agriculture programming via certification.

Those educators will be expected to program within their states, anticipating at least 50 producers per state to be educated before the conclusion of the project. This total reach in post-event surveys collected should number no less than 600, and likely many more.

The collaboration with the USDA Climate Hubs will result in a long-term strengthening of the relationship.

Wherein the initial survey/assessment identifies needs, educational materials and hands-on technologies will be shared with participants.

Updates will be made to the Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture Resource Handbook (Doll and Pathak, 2015a), as well as the Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture PowerPoint Curriculum (Doll and Pathak, 2015b).


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Educational approach:

Education has occurred via bimonthly webinars by the North Central Climate Collaborative while the workshop has been surveyed and planned otherwise.  Webinars occurred in October and December of 2019 and February, April, June, August, October, and December of 2020.  A February webinar occurred in 2021.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Climate Change's Impact of Field Crop Diseases

To enhance knowledge of attendees in climate change and integrated pest management practices.


This webinar featured Daren Mueller, Associate Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist at Iowa State University. Mueller is the coordinator of the ISU Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program which, among other things, develops several publications about field crop pests, leads the ISU Field Extension Farm and is involved in several STEM education projects. In this webinar, Mueller explores how climate change and changing management practices can affect corn and soybean diseases.

Outcomes and impacts:

Surveys administered during this webinar were taken by Tyler Williams, who is no longer with UNL Extension.  Data will be retrieved and updated when received.

Climate for Cities: Increasing the Capacity for Cities to Effectively Plan for Climate Change

Enhance participants knowledge of community planning for climate change.


Rising temperatures, greater variability, shifting precipitation patterns, and more extreme rain events due to climate change pose current and future challenges for cities. Impacts permeate across many aspects of municipalities – infrastructure, health, recreation, utilities, emergency operations, etc. Proper adaptation requires a knowledge and understanding of climate projections and how future changes will influence specific municipal concerns. This webinar featured Dr. Martha Shulski of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and discusses the Climate for Cities program which aims to enhance decision-making and increase capacity of both small and large communities to effectively plan for change.

Outcomes and impacts:

Surveys administered during this webinar were taken by Tyler Williams, who is no longer with UNL Extension.  Data will be retrieved and updated when received.

Missouri River Basin Flood Outlook

To enhance participants knowledge of climate change impacts on potential flooding in the Missouri River Basin.


2019 saw record-setting flooding across many parts of the North Central Region, and many areas are continuing to deal with excess water. This is especially top of mind as we head into the spring. This month’s webinar featured Kevin Low, river forecaster for the National Weather Service’s Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, who summarized the operations of the National Weather Service Missouri Basin River Forecast Center and provided a briefing on the 2020 Spring flood risk across the basin.

Outcomes and impacts:

Surveys administered during this webinar were taken by Tyler Williams, who is no longer with UNL Extension.  Data will be retrieved and updated when received.

Bioenergy and Ecosystem Services – What’s Next?

To enhance participant knowledge of biofuels, the economics of biofuel production, and COVID 19 impacts.


COVID-19 has drastically impacted our nation’s people, economy, and politics.  This webinar features David Ripplinger of North Dakota State University Extension who discussed the current social, economic, and political situation as it pertains to biofuels and ecosystem services and what you can expect moving forward.

Slide deck at 

Outcomes and impacts:

Surveys administered during this webinar were taken by Tyler Williams, who is no longer with UNL Extension.  Data will be retrieved and updated when received.

Conservation Drainage: Managing Water for the Future

To enhance participant knowledge of conservation drainage practices.


Tile drainage is widespread throughout the Midwest.  As weather patterns continue to shift toward more precipitation outside of the growing season and less precipitation during the growing season, water management will need to continue to adapt to provide resilience. Conservation drainage is a concept that incorporates methods of storing water or treating water in the landscape or edge-of-field to increase resilience and improve water quality while maintaining the agronomic benefits of tile drainage.  This webinar will cover some of the recent research in conservation drainage, how they can be incorporated into new and existing practices, and what the future of conservation drainage might look like.

Outcomes and impacts:

With 258 participants on this webinar, Schmitz forgot to save the survey results from the post-survey questions.

Weather-Ready Farms: An Extension Resilience Resource

Participants will increase knowledge of use of market research to inform a weather resilience program.


The University of Nebraska Extension has developed a program in which farmers are certificated at different tiers for their use of practices science knows to promote resilience to extreme weather events.  This webinar featured a discussion of the development of that curriculum, current issues, and related resources for use by those in other states.

Outcomes and impacts:

All survey respondents reported learning something on the webinar.  All survey respondents were at least a little likely to share what they learned.

Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate

Participants gain knowledge about animal agriculture education efforts around climate change.


The Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate (AACC) project was conducted with the goal of building capacity among Extension professionals and other livestock advisors to address climate change issues. The AACC project team learned some pivotal lessons early during the multi-regional project that were foundational to the development of key products and delivery of regional and national programs to over 1400 professionals. This webinar highlights lessons learned along with program deliverables and impacts. It also discusses the issue of methane production in beef cattle and some specific techniques that either increase or decrease production per day, per body weight, and per production outcome (like weight gain).

Outcomes and impacts:

99% of survey respondents reported learning something on the webinar.  97% of survey respondents were at least a little likely to share what they learned.

Drought Decision Calendars for Specialty Crops

Participants gain knowledge in decision-making around specialty crop agronomics annually.


This webinar highlighted a recent project engaging specialty crop growers in the Midwest to better understand the seasonality of their decisions and drought information needs. The project has resulted in graphical decision calendars for grape, apple, cranberry, and irrigated potato production. Decision calendars describe the timing of management practices and decisions that are made throughout crop planting, growing, harvest, and dormant seasons, along with the climate-related concerns that impact the outcomes of management decisions. Decision calendars can help identify opportunities for inserting climate information into a decision process. This webinar discusses how decision calendars can be used to communicate and improve the usability of drought/climate monitoring and prediction science.

Outcomes and impacts:

All survey respondents reported learning something on the webinar.  All survey respondents were at least a little likely to share what they learned.

Understanding Climate Adaptations in the Eastern Corn Belt

Participants will gain knowledge in farmer decision-making and adaptation in the Eastern Corn Belt


Climate change across the eastern Corn Belt Region (ECBR) is projected to bring higher temperatures, more variable and extreme levels of precipitation, and longer growing seasons. While these possibilities imply opportunity for increased production in the ECBR, managing change sustainably is increasingly challenging.

The Agroecosystem Resilience Project is engaged in research that will elevate the capacity of decision-makers in the ECBR to adapt to a variable climate. Their approach is to identify how changing seasonal and extreme precipitation patterns induce changes in land use and management patterns driven by heterogeneous farmer adaptations. To assess multiple goals related to agricultural production, conservation, and societal well-being, they are building an integrated set of models of the climate system, regional economy, and agroecological outcomes and use this to evaluate policies and programs by projecting their impacts on the sustainability and resilience of this regional agroecosystem under varying futures.

This webinar discusses the project, their approach, progress to date and outcomes. For more information, please visit Agroecosystem Resilience Project.

Outcomes and impacts:

All survey respondents reported learning something on the webinar.  94% of survey respondents were at least a little likely to share what they learned.

Educational & Outreach Activities

38 Consultations
9 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

149 Extension
40 Researchers
47 Agency
47 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
13 Farmers/ranchers
290 Others

Learning Outcomes

380 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
356 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

To come later in project evaluation period.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.