First and foremost: what in the world is Grass-Cast? Well, put simply, Grass-Cast is a new innovative Grassland Productivity Forecast. The big deal? It just published its first forecast to help livestock producers in the Northern Great Plains guess about how much grass will be available for livestock to graze on during the next summer. Although this is an experimental technology, if it is successful, it could help producers in a significant economic way.
How did this come about?
It is the product of a collaboration between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; National Drought Mitigation Center; Colorado State University and the University of Arizona.
How does it even work?
Grass-Cast uses over 3 decades of historical data about weather and vegetation growth (along with seasonal precipitation forecasts) to predict if rangelands in individual areas are likely to produce above-normal, near-normal, or below-normal amounts of vegetation for grazing.
According to ARS economist Dannele Peck, director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, Grass-Cast’s accuracy depends on how far into the future they attempt to look. The thing is, the program’s accuracy improves as the growing season unfolds, so it should be looked at and checked more than just once during the growing season.
The Grass-Cast forecasts are updated every two weeks to incorporate new data from changing weather and new trends in grazing conditions, like if the land has changed because of a flash drought or wildfire.
Okay, now I know what, next is who cares?
Along with many other helpful tools, Grass-Cast also helps ranchers look at rangeland productivity in the surrounding areas and broader regions to bring a larger-scale perspective to their decision making.
Let’s get to growing,