The Drought Calculator: Decision Support Tool for Predicting Forage Growth During Drought
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CitationDunn, G. H., Gutwein, M., Green, T. R., Menger, A., & Printz, J. (2013). The drought calculator: decision support tool for predicting forage growth during drought. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 66(5), 570-578.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractThe Drought Calculator (DC), a spreadsheet-based decision support tool, was developed to help ranchers and range managers predict reductions in forage production due to drought. Forage growth potential (FGP), the fraction of historical average production, is predicted as a weighted average of monthly precipitation from January through June. We calibrated and evaluated the DC tool in the Great Plains of the United States, using FGP and precipitation data from Colorado (CO), North Dakota (ND), and Wyoming (WY). In CO, FGP was most sensitive to precipitation in April and May, in ND to precipitation in April and June, and in WY to precipitation in April, May, and June. Weights in these months ranged from 0.16 to 0.52. Prediction was better for CO and WY than for ND. When January-June precipitation was used, the tool correctly predicted 83% of the years with FGP reduced by drought for CO, 82% for WY, and only 67% for ND. Positive values of the True Skill Statistic (0.53 for CO, 0.42 for WY, and 0.17 for ND) indicate that FGP was classified as above or below average better than random selection. Predicting FGP earlier than April in CO and WY will require accurate forecasts of April-June precipitation. Use of the DC is most limited by insufficient forage data to determine the site-specific relationships between FGP and monthly precipitation. Even so, the decision tool is useful for discriminating drought effects on FGP classification being above or below the long term average, and it provides a quantitative prediction to producers for their destocking decisions in drought years.