Grant to Help Farmers

A new grant awarded to Florida State University from the U.S. Department of Agriculture could help area farmers make better decisions when it comes to planting their crops.

A typical farmer spends hours a day in the field, and the success of his or her crop relies heavily on mother nature.

Will Maxwell, a tomato farmer in Gadsden County, says the weather has a mind of its own. Maxwell is one of many farmers in the southeast region, a region directly affected by conditions brought on by the different phases of El Nino and La Nina.

That's where $3 million in grant money to FSU will hopefully come in handy.

Dr. Jim O' Brien, Meteorology and Oceanography Professor, says, "We have severe droughts in Florida, and if people are planting winter hay or corn and they don't have irrigated fields, they're going to lose every penny they have."

O'Brien is among a team of researchers working with colleges and universities in the southeast hoping to provide climate and crop forecasts which farmers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama can use to reduce financial risks and help improve profits.

James Jones at the University of Florida says, "They're all at risk to climate variability, and by knowing ahead of time, three to six months, it's likely to be a drought or there's a higher probability of freezes. It will help them make decisions that will reduce that risk."

Once the research is compiled it will be passed along to the various farm services agencies within area counties.