Extension Agent Awareness of Climate and New Directions for Research in North Carolina

by: Norman Breuer, Heather Dinon, Ryan Boyles, Gail Wilkerson

Volume 2012, No. 2, 6 Mar 2012

Each state in the United States of America has an institution known as the Cooperative Extension Service. These institutions, almost always associated with the Land Grant University’s tripartite mission of research, education, and extension, are in essence providers of adult education. In the case of climate science, they have been called a boundary organization which serves as a two-way intermediary between climate researchers and end-users. In order to better collaborate with the Extension Service, this investigation explored their attitudes toward, knowledge of, and willingness to use climate information and seasonal climate forecasts. A survey instrument was developed and distributed to North Carolina extension personnel in March 2009. A total of 109 responses were retrieved and analyzed. A principal finding is that extension agents need and desire to gain a better understanding of climate science and its application to agricultural practices. The respondents find seasonal climate forecasts to be useful and understand the economic value of forecast guidance. However, requested accuracy of seasonal climate forecasts is beyond the skill of current climate models. The survey results are discussed as well as their implication for future work in climate assessment programs regarding information to reduce risk in agriculture and natural resource management. In general, extension will continue to be a valued partner for the dissemination of climate tools and products by serving as an intermediary between climate scientists and end-users. This feedback loop can tailor and improve formats, content, presentation, access, and credibility of climate risk reduction decision support systems.

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