Climate, Weather And Sweet Corn

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CLIMATE, WEATHER AND SWEET CORNLois Wright Morton Ajay Nair Mark GleasonMidwest Climate Hub StatesSociology Technical Report 1048 March 2017

Climate, Weather and Sweet CornThis document may be cited as:Morton, Lois Wright, Ajay Nair and Mark Gleason. 2017. Climate, Weather and Sweet Corn.Sociology Technical Report 1048. Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 14 pp.This weather-based uncertainty and specialty crop production series presents conceptual maps of growers’ viewsand priorities on apples (technical report 1046), wine grapes (technical report 1043), hops (technical report 1045),strawberries (technical report 1047) and sweet corn (technical report 1048). Department of Sociology, College ofAgriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University, Ames Iowa. design and format by Renea Miller, Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. March 2017.USDA Census of Agriculture data tables and figures by Anna Johnson.Midwest Climate Hub StatesThis research, North Central Fruit,Vegetable and Wine Growers’ Assessmentof Soil and Water Vulnerability UnderChanging Climate Conditions andExtreme Weather Events funded byUSDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)Midwest Climate Hub.The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does notconstitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture or the Agricultural Research Service ofany product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, itsAgencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminatingbased on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civilrights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaintfiling deadlines vary by program or incident.Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape,American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible Agency or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY)or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available inlanguages other than English.To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at Howto File a Program Discrimination Complaint and at any USDA office or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all ofthe information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue,SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or (3) email: is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

iContentsSweet corn production and a changing climate: growers’ views and priorities to manageuncertainty in production systems.1Sweet corn production, weather and climate risks.1Sweet corn production for fresh markets in the United States .2Iowa sweet corn .2Concept mapping views and priorities .3Iowa sweet corn growers’ conceptual maps and priority ratings.5Iowa sweet corn growers’ cluster maps and priority ratings.5Observations .8References.11Appendix I. Iowa sweet corn growers’ six-cluster rankings.13Appendix II. Iowa sweet corn growers’ ranked statements .15

iiList of FiguresFigure 1. U.S. sweet corn fresh market acres harvested 2006-2015. Total sweet corn, freshmarket acres harvested in 2015, 229,090 acres. USDA National AgriculturalStatistics Service (NASS) 2015.2Figure 2. Total value of U.S. sweet corn fresh market production from 2006-2016. Totalvalue of 2016 U.S. fresh market crop 665,301,000; 2015 fresh makret crop 787,581,000. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), AgriculturalStatistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). .3Figure 3. Point map of Iowa sweet corn growers’ sort of 57 statements, “Oneuncertainty in my production system I have difficulty managing is ”.4Figure 4. Two-cluster Iowa sweet corn growers’ conceptual map derived from the prompt,“One uncertainty in my production system I have difficulty managing is ”and rated based on, “How critical is it to reduce levels of uncertainty in yourproduction system related to this statement to make better decisions?(1 not critical; 2 somewhat critical; 3 moderately critical; 4 very critical;5 extremely critical).”.5Figure 5. Six-cluster Iowa sweet corn growers’ conceptual map derived from the prompt,“One uncertainty in my production system I have difficulty managing is ”and rated based on, “How critical is it to reduce levels of uncertainty in yourproduction system related to this statement to make better decisions?(1 not critical; 2 somewhat critical; 3 moderately critical; 4 very critical;5 extremely critical).”.6

iiiList of TablesTable 1. Iowa sweet corn growers' priority ratings of uncertainites in theirproduction systems. “One uncertainity in my production system I havedifficulty managing is ”.7Table 2. Top quartile (25%) Iowa sweet corn growers’ ranked statements.“How critical is it to reduce levels of uncertainty in your production systemrelated to this statement to make better decisions? (1 not critical; 2 somewhatcritical; 3 moderately critical; 4 very critical; 5 extremely critical).”.9Appendix I. Iowa sweet corn growers’ six-cluster rankings.11Appendix II. Iowa sweet corn growers’ ranked statements .13


Sweet corn production and a changing climate: growers’ viewsand priorities to manage uncertainty in production systemsLois Wright Morton, Ajay Nair, and Mark L. GleasonSweet corn production, weather andclimate risksSweet corn is one of 25 major annual vegetablecrops produced in the United States (U.S.). It is animportant commercial cash crop valued over 1.2billion in 2012, and is grown in all fifty states. Almost70% is produced for fresh markets and the balancefor frozen and canned markets. Processing sweetcorn in terms of production totaled 2.9 million tonsvalued at 73.1 million in 2012; and was surpassedonly by processed tomatoes (Huntrods, 2013).Sweet corn for processing is concentrated in theupper Midwest and Pacific Northwest; and freshmarket production is dominated by California,Florida and Georgia.Sweet corn requires sunny, well-drained soil, andan abundant water supply. Although there are manylocal variations in sweetness, color, and maturity,sweet corn has a 65-90 day window from plantingto harvest. Both soil and air temperature are majorenvironmental challenges for the production ofsweet corn. Periods of high heat and minimum andmaximum daily temperatures affect soil temperaturefor seeding, tasseling, pollination and harvest dates(Walthall et al., 2012). First seeding requires soiltemperatures reach 50 F and a frost-free periodthereafter; and subsequent seeding occurs 10-14days between plantings for a sequential harvestperiod until frost (Fritz et al., 2010). However,supersweet and improved supersweet cultivarsare highly sensitive to cool soil conditions anddo best when soil temperatures run between 60 Fand 70 F to increase germination rates. Like fieldcorn, one of sweet corn’s most vulnerable periodsis during pollination when extreme temperaturescan reduce full kernel development and ear quality.Further, heat units affect uniform germination andgrowth stages. Sweet corn water use is dependenton evapotranspiration (ET), which is influencedby stage of growth, air temperatures, and solarradiation (Fritz et al., 2010). Yield and earquality will be reduced if moisture stress occursduring tasseling, silking and kernel fill. Irrigationscheduling requires regular soil and watermonitoring, with the highest water use occurringfrom tassel to harvest.Walthall et al. (2012) suggest that climate is anadditional risk joining production, finance andmarketing risks already managed by growers. Theynote that climate risk will add complexity to U.S.specialty crop systems and increase uncertaintyin agricultural decision environments. Changesin climate interact with other environmental andsocietal factors in ways that can either moderateor intensify its impacts on sweet corn productionsystems. In conjunction with changes in thetiming and distribution of precipitation, warmergrowing season temperatures result in greatercrop water requirements, with potential to affectyield and profits as a result (Melillo et al., 2012).Precipitation and temperature patterns as well asother weather and climate variables are specificto individual regions, sub-regions, and localities;thus, their impacts are localized also.As climate and weather become more variable, sweetcorn growers face increased uncertainty in makingdecisions about their crop. One interpretationof this uncertainty is that growers may not havequite enough information to adequately evaluatetheir management options in the context of climaterisk. Uncertainty can stem from social, economic,relational and/or biophysical factors that constrainor limit knowledge needed to make timely, gooddecisions. What is not well understood is howsweet corn growers perceive climate-weatherrisks to their production systems and whatkind of adaptations have potential to reduceuncertainties associated with their managementdecisions. This technical report is a preliminaryeffort to summarize information gathered fromIowa sweet corn growers to better understand whatthey are thinking and how they view uncertaintyand their production challenges. First, a briefoverview of U.S. and Iowa sweet corn productionClimate, Weather and Sweet Corn—1

is presented, followed by the methodology usedto gather and analyze grower information. Then,conceptual maps of Iowa sweet corn growers’views and priorities associated with managing theirproduction systems under increasing uncertaintiesare shown and discussed. Supporting data arefound in Appendices I and II.Sweet corn production for freshmarkets in the United StatesU.S. sweet corn consumption is about 24 poundsper person (2011) after peaking at 29 pounds perperson in 1996 (Huntrods, 2013). Most sweetcorn is consumed frozen (9.5 pound per capita)followed closely by fresh sweet corn consumptionat 8.7 pounds per person. Although sweet cornis available almost year around, climate plays abig role in where and when sweet corn is grown.According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, thereare 28,000 farms harvesting sweet corn across theU.S. with about 229,000 acres harvested for freshmarket in 2015 (figure 1) . This is a drop from ahigh of 245,730 acres harvested for fresh market in2002. The U.S. produced almost 28 million cwt ofsweet corn for fresh markets, valued at nearly 788million in 2015 (Figure 2).Iowa sweet cornBased on acreage, sweet corn is the number onevegetable crop grown in Iowa (USDA-NASS,2012). According to 2012 USDA agriculture census,Iowa growers harvested 3,393 acres of sweet corn.This number does not include the growing numberof acreages that are now being utilized for contractfarming. In last five years, in addition to growingfor local markets, Iowa sweet corn growers haveexpanded to cater to processors such as Birds EyeInc., Waseca, MN. In 2016, Birds Eye contractedclose to 2,500 acres with sweet corn growers inIowa. Given the growing demand, sweet corngrowers strive to produce an early high qualitysweet corn crop by carefully choosing appropriatecultivars and planting dates. The entire crop cyclefrom seeding to harvest is significantly influencedby weather. Soil temperature, moisture, andfertility, pest management, labor, and marketingare all key factors that are affected by weather.Growers experience multiple challenges when itcomes to weather: 1) accurate real-time weatherestimates, 2) interpretation of weather forecastdata, and 3) utilizing the weather data in planningoptimal planting and harvest dates. In addition,growers need research-based information on ,000205,000200,000195,0002006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015Figure 1. U.S. sweet corn fresh market acres harvested 2006-2015. Total sweet corn, fresh marketacres harvested in 2015, 229,090 acres. USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)2015.Climate, Weather and Sweet Corn—2

900,000,000 800,000,000 700,000,000 600,000,000 500,000,000 400,000,000 300,000,000 200,000,000 100,000,000 e 2. Total value of U.S. sweet corn fresh market production from 2006-2016. Total valueof 2016 U.S. fresh market crop 665,301,000; 2015 fresh makret crop 787,581,000. NationalAgricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department ofAgriculture (USDA).corn type (se, sh2/synergistic), cultivar, interactionof type/cultivar with soil temperature, soil fertilityand pest management. With sweet corn, as withmany other processing crops, planting and timingof harvest is critical because seed germination,crop growth and the quality of the end productchange rapidly both before and after harvesting.Weather interacts with soil temperature, moisture,insects, and diseases to determine appropriateplanting and harvest dates of sweet corn. Currentpractice for sweet corn planting and scheduling isto base the expected harvest dates on accumulatedexperience from preceding seasons (Bussell et al.,1979). Another challenge growers face is insectmanagement, especially corn ear worm. Growersuse traps to monitor insect populations and followa strict spray schedule to protect their crop fromcorn earworm. Use of Bt-sweet corn is also gainingpopularity and acceptance among growers.Concept mapping views and prioritiesSweet corn growers are seeking strategies to betterassess the risks and vulnerabilities, and reduceuncertainty in their production systems underchanging short- and long-term weather conditionsand improve their decision-making capacities.Nine sweet corn growers and crop advisors wereidentified in Fall, 2016 as key leaders in theirindustry and were invited to meet in Altoona,Iowa at the Iowa State University Extension, PolkCounty office to discuss impacts of temperature,precipitation, and other weather-related issueson their production systems. The focus was oncritical production and marketing decision pointsthroughout the year for the sweet corn crop.Scientists from Iowa State University met withthe growers to identify and prioritize productionconcerns and uncertainties in their systems thatthey have difficulty managing. A concept mappingprocess was used to capture individual growers’challenges as well as areas of common concernamong the group. Of interest to the scienceteam was to gather information to guide futureresearch and extension-outreach programming thatwould reduce uncertainty in different aspects ofproduction decisions.Climate, Weather and Sweet Corn—3

The concept mapping methodology is a participatoryplanning process that spatially maps the thoughtsand knowledge of a particular group of peopleand enables the creation of a common frameworkfor planning and evaluation of issues that matterto that group (Kane and Trochim, 2007). Theprocess begins with the group brainstorming keyideas together, then individually rating each of theidea statements by how critical or important it is tothem, followed by individual conceptual sorting ofthe statements into groups of similar concepts.On November 4, 2016, sweet corn growers firstbrainstormed by completing the statement: “Oneuncertainty in my production system I havedifficulty managing is ” The brainstormedstatements were recorded on a large screen wherethe entire group could read them and discussas the list was made. Fifty-seven statementswere generated (see Appendix II for the listof 57 statements). Then, the nine participantsindividually rated each statement using a 1-5Likert scale based on how critical they thoughtit was to reduce uncertainty in their productionsystem related to this statement (1 not critical;2 somewhat critical; 3 moderately critical;4 very critical; 5 extremely critical). Lastly,participants individually sorted the 57 statementsinto separate piles or groups based on perceptionsof statement similarities and gave them labels.Some participants lumped statements together,whereas others split the statements into manygroupings. The smallest number of groups createdby a participant was four; the largest containedtwelve groupings.Conceptual maps were computed using multidimensional scaling analysis that locates eachstatement as a separate point on a map based onhow the participants sorted the 57 statements. Asimilarity matrix from the sorts was constructedfrom statements based on how they were groupedtogether by the participants. Statements that wereconceptually viewed as similar are located closerto each other on the point map and those thatwere grouped together less frequently, have moredistance separating them on the map (Figure 3).Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to partitionthe statements on the map into clusters representingconceptual groupings. Then the average ratings32 2346 3422 3348 13 271 174 2 301611 831 92114 12 29 262856 52535455Figure 3. Point map of Iowa sweet corn growers’ sort of 57 statements, “One uncertainty in myproduction system I have difficulty managing is ”4—Climate, Weather and Sweet Corn

for each statement and each cluster, based on howcritical it is to reduce uncertainty, were computedand overlaid on the spatial map.Iowa sweet corn growers’ conceptualmaps and priority ratingsThe point map (Figure 3) and cluster mapsrepresented by the polygons in Figures 4 and 5 offera visual way to understand the conceptual thinkingof the sweet corn grower participants. The mapsalong

Climate, Weather and Sweet Corn—1 Sweet corn production and a changing climate: growers’ views and priorities to manage uncertainty in production systems Lois Wright Morton, Ajay Nair, and Mark L. Gleason Sweet corn production, weather and climate risks Sweet corn is one of 25 major annual vegetable crops produced in the United States (U.S.).

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