Building Capacity for Climate Extension

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $65,934.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Lois Wright Morton
Iowa State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, rye, soybeans, wheat


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health


    The overall intent of this NC SARE professional development project was to increase the capacity of 18 extension educators, representing 10 institutions across nine states in the upper Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin), 1) to learn about regional long term weather patterns, climate change and agricultural relationships and 2) to engage farmers in learning opportunities that build farmers’ knowledge and capacities to implement risk management strategies that address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    The eighteen extension educators participated as a team in a USDA-NIFA coordinated agricultural project (CAP), increasing their own knowledge of agro-climate science and their expertise in sharing that knowledge with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. The name of the CAP: Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP).

    Their participation in CSCAP expanded their agro-climate knowledge and their professional networks by working with and learning from climate scientists, biophysical scientists, social scientists, and economists in the region, who are part of the CSCAP and are conducting research to understand how to make corn-based agriculture more resilient in response to climate change.  

    During the course of the 5-year project, the extension educators assisted with the social science of the project by conducting one-on-one data gathering discussions with 159 farmer leaders and farmer groups to learn about their production systems and changes. They also completed two rounds of surveys of the 159 project farmers to understand their perceptions, practices, and responses to a changing climate.

    CSCAP’s partnership with the USDA, Purdue-led Useful 2 Usable project (U2U) provided the extension educators opportunities to learn how to use the new U2U farmer decision support tools, pilot test the tools and provide feedback to enhance the usability and effectiveness of the tools, as well as promote decision tool experimentation by farmers and agricultural technical advisors.

    The extension educators created new and enhanced existing priority extension and outreach programs featuring climate information and agricultural education at each of their institutions and reached over 7000 farmers, crop consultants, and other extension educators. Overall, the extension team has presented in numerous local and regional settings with most presentations themed around cover crops, soil health, crop productivity, and weather variability. The Extension team has a total of 385 outputs to-date and 15,520 individuals reached in-person. Outputs include: promotional reports, grant proposals written, extension publications, conference presentations, extension presentations, blog articles, Twitter entries, popular press articles, news releases, radio and television spots, and educational videos.

    Through annual whole-team meetings, annual extension team meetings, monthly conference calls, and occasional webinars, the extension educators developed a professional support group network of educators among the nine states that has increased and is expected to continue to increase the capacity of the Upper Midwest land grant university extension system to deliver science-based education to agricultural sector stakeholders regarding risk management, and adaptation and mitigation strategies under changing climate conditions.

    Project objectives:

    Professional development goals were to learn: 1) about regional long term weather patterns, climate change and agricultural relationships and 2) how to build farmers’ knowledge and capacities to implement risk management strategies that address climate change mitigation and adaptation. To this end, the objectives included the following:

    1. Convene the Climate Extension Educator team yearly to learn from the multidisciplinary team of agronomists, agricultural engineers, climate scientists, economists, sociologists, and entomologists, in the 9-state region.
    2. Create sessions at the Climate CSCAP annual meeting for extension educators to build relationships with other climate educators.
    3. Work as a team to refine and improve extension curricula that increase farmer implementation of climate risk management strategies.
    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.