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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Research Project #431707

Research Project: Climate Change Baseline Assessment Using Merged, Root-Zone Soil Moisture Product (Soil MERGE, SMERGE)

Location: Rangeland Resources & Systems Research

Project Number: 3012-21610-003-22-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Apr 12, 2016
End Date: Sep 30, 2020

Objective:
Full project: We seek to develop a set of root zone soil moisture (RZSM)-based indicators that will allow for the timely reporting and wide dissemination of climatic trends relevant to the agricultural sector. A fundamental limiting factor that constrains agricultural productivity is RZSM. With a plethora of remote sensing platforms now available the time has come for the development of more direct measures of soil moisture. We propose to develop a new remotely sensed RZSM product (Soil MERGE or SMERGE) from which a suite of indicators will be derived that can provide a robust baseline to facilitate analysis of future climate change. For USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub: Involvement of the USDA/ARS Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub will help in RZSM product development. Beta versions of the developed indicators will be disseminated to agricultural stakeholders in six states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska) with varying land uses (e.g., native rangeland, pasture, irrigated cropland, dryland cropland) across wide environmental gradients in temperature and precipitation. Feedback from this community will allow us to focus on indicators that have the greatest utility within the agricultural sector.

Approach:
1. Develop a merged data set representing a variety of surface soil moisture retrievals collected during the last three decades (Year 1 to 3). 2. Use the merged surface soil moisture data to develop a RZSM product based on data assimilation techniques (Year 1). 3. Validation of the initial version of SMERGE within a comprehensive framework by involving examination at the in situ, regional, and global scales (Years 2-3). 4. Develop SMERGE based indicators for long-term trend analysis (Years 2-3). 5. Share SMERGE and its derived products through the GES-DISC portal (Year 3). 6. Conduct outreach/workshops via the USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub to support decision-making by diverse stakeholders within the agricultural sector (Years 2-3). The USDA NPRCH will be holding state-level (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska) stakeholder workshops in the fall 2017 to engage ranchers, farmers and forested land managers in discussions about needed information and indicators/products for enhancing decision-making for agricultural production and reduction of risk for enterprises. The focus of these meetings will be on soil moisture and the indicators that can assist land managers with key decision-making related to weather variability and a changing climate. A series of follow up stakeholder workshops will be held in fall 2018 (3rd year of the project) to evaluate the utility of developed indicators and tools/products and this feedback will be critical to develop an assessment tool that will be widely adopted.