The South Central U.S. is one of the main agricultural regions in North America: annual agricultural production is valued at more than $44 billion dollars. However, as climate conditions change, the region is experiencing more frequent and severe droughts, with significant impacts on agriculture and broader consequences for land management. For example, in 2011 drought caused an estimated $7.6 billion in agricultural losses in Texas and an additional $1.6 billion in Oklahoma. Although there are many drought monitoring tools available, most of these tools were developed without input from the stakeholders, such as farmers and ranchers, who are intended to use them.
The goal of this project was to assess the information needs of farmers, ranchers, and local land managers in the South Central region and to develop drought monitoring tools that are effective and responsive to their needs. The results of this project are meant to be directly and immediately applicable to land management decisions in the region. Further, this approach to improving drought monitoring could be applied to other regions of the country facing similar challenges. Finally, in addition to advancing our knowledge of how drought information is used, this project aimed to contribute to our understanding of how private land owners and agronomists make decisions related to landscape-scale change.