Come Rain or Shine

Grass-Cast: A Grassland Productivity Forecasting Tool

April 21, 2021 USDA Southwest Climate Hub & DOI Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Season 2 Episode 6
Come Rain or Shine
Grass-Cast: A Grassland Productivity Forecasting Tool
Show Notes Transcript

In this mid-month bonus episode we interview Dr. Dannele Peck, Director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, about a rangeland/grassland forage productivity forecasting tool called Grass-Cast. Grass-Cast uses well-known relationships between historical weather and grassland production to provide estimates of annual forage production, beginning in the spring of each year and updated on a two-week cycle throughout the growing season. With the new growing season now upon us, we decided to check in with Dannele for a behind the scenes look at Grass-Cast - how it’s made, why it’s important, and what changes we might expect to see in the future.

Grass-Cast homepage
https://grasscast.unl.edu/


If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider rating us and/or leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or Podchaser https://www.podchaser.com/ComeRainOrShine Thanks!

Follow us on Twitter @RainShinePod

Have a suggestion for a future episode? Please tell us! https://forms.gle/3oVDfWbjNZs6CJVT7

Affiliate links:
DOI Southwest CASC:
https://www.swcasc.arizona.edu/
USDA Southwest Climate Hub:
https://www.climatehubs.usda.gov/hubs/southwest
Sustainable Southwest Beef Project:
https://southwestbeef.org/



Sarah LeRoy: Welcome to Come Rain or Shine, podcast of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and the USGS Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center or Southwest CASC. I'm Sarah LeRoy, Science Applications and Communications Coordinator for the Southwest CASC. 

Emile Elias: And I'm Emile Elias, Director of the Southwest Climate Hub. Here we highlight stories to share the most recent advances in climate science, weather and climate adaptation and innovative practices to support resilient landscapes and communities. 

Sarah LeRoy: We believe that sharing some of the most innovative forward thinking and creative climate science and adaptation will strengthen our collective ability to respond to even the most challenging impacts of climate change in one of the hottest and driest regions of the world.

Emile Elias: [00:00:43] Today, we're here with my colleague and friend, Dr. Dannele Peck, Director of the Northern Plains Climate Hub and an agricultural economist by training. One of the most visible products from the Northern Plains Climate Hub is a decision support tool called Grass-Cast. This tool provides an estimate of annual forage production beginning in the spring, each year, and updated on a two-week cycle throughout the growing season.

Since we're at the beginning of a growing season now we decided to check in with Dannele for a behind the scenes look at Grass-Cast, how it's made, why it's important and what changes we might expect in the future. So Dannele, I know you've been interviewed a lot, quite a lot about Grass-Cast. So I wanted to start with a question that you might not have gotten already, something a little new or different.

So recently I've been working on naming some decision support tools, and it actually isn't easy. We sent out a call for ideas and we got 19 suggestions to name our livestock tool shed. So I'm wondering if you can tell us how your team named Grass-Cast. 

Dannele Peck: [00:01:50] I love this opening question, Emile. Thank you for asking it.

No one has ever asked this before, so well done. And this question gives me flashbacks to a really nerve wracking time before Grass-Cast had its catchy name. And so I really sympathize with the difficult task of coming up with a name. And honestly, I have to give credit to a very long, solo drive from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Rapid City, South Dakota, and back all by myself with too much gas station coffee and no local radio stations.

So I'm driving across the countryside, headed to some Climate Hub event. I had struck out early that morning, ‘cause I wanted to take the back roads through the beautiful wide open spaces of Wyoming and then into the rolling kind of grass filled valleys of the Black Hills region. And it was during that stretch of the drive, these beautiful winding two lane roads where I had nothing better to do than strike up a conversation with myself and play a little word game. And so I did, I started blurting out every possible keyword I could think of that described the information that our cool new tool was going to provide. And then I started stringing those keywords together in every possible combination you could imagine.

And then, you know, kind of repeating them out loud to myself and then thinking, how would I like this? This sounds like a cool scientific title, but how am I going to shorten that title for a general audience? And so I played this word game for three or four hours all by myself in the, in the back roads of Wyoming and South Dakota, until I struck on one that just kind of rolled, it rolled off the tongue.

It was something that I thought people could easily remember and still sounded relevant enough or intriguing enough that I thought someone might want to ask follow up questions about it. And so I had that whole long drive to play this word game. I stumbled across a combination that I was kind of excited about.

I'd convinced myself that it was the right one, since I was the only one in the car. And I couldn't wait to get home to kind of share it with my teammates. And so I told them Grassland Productivity Forecast, i.e. Grass-Cast. And the reaction was priceless. And it really revealed a lot about what that name, you know, how it was going to serve us and how it was going to challenge us.

And it did, it stimulated a lot of other ideas. But ultimately it really came down between these trade-offs of having a name that was accurate enough but also catchy enough. And so we came up with other ideas that were more accurate, you know, Range-Cast, Pasture-Cast. But it didn't roll off the tongue like Grass-Cast did.

And so we made compromises and settled on the Grassland Productivity Forecast or Grass-Cast. 

Emile Elias: [00:04:55] It's a great name. I think you needed that, you know, six hour drive alone in the car to come up with it because it's a great name. And it's, it's fun to imagine people's responses when you first shared it with them.

And so for our listeners who haven't seen or used Grass-Cast, can you elaborate on Grass-Cast? What does it do and how does it do it? 

Dannele Peck: [00:05:22] Yeah. So in the past, pre-Grass-Cast, as a Climate Hub team, we would go out to a rangeland and ranching events, and we would carry with us the seasonal precipitation forecast or the seasonal precipitation outlook for the upcoming growing season.

And we would hand them this three month outlook and say, good luck - I'm not sure what this means for you, but I'm hoping that you do. And we realized that that was not very helpful. We realized that it's actually a pretty complicated relationship between how much precipitation an area gets and how much grass really grows out on your, on your rangelands.

And that was a lot to ask of people to do that translation for themselves. And so we realized that we had the scientific expertise to be able to do that translation for them, to take that one extra step for them. And instead of handing them a precipitation outlook, hand them a grasslands outlook, hand them an outlook for the thing they directly care about, how much grass might grow out there for livestock and wildlife to graze.

So that was our motivation for Grass-Cast. That was the kind of unmet need that we recognized. So what does it actually do? Starting in early spring, the first set of Grass-Cast maps are released and those maps are telling us how well we think rangelands in your local area might grow during the upcoming growing season.

And what it's trying to forecast is how many pounds per acre we will, we expect to grow out there. As if you were to go out and kind of clip it, and dry it, and weigh it at the peak of your growing season. So that may be in some places that's late July and other places that's late August, but that's what we're trying to forecast for you is kind of that peak pounds per acre that we expect to grow in your area during the upcoming growing season. When I say local area Grass-Cast is produced for every six mile by six mile grid cell on a map currently for the Great Plains and then for the Southwest States of Arizona and New Mexico. So when I say your local area, it's that six mile by six mile grid cell.

And that's not quite ranch scale, you know, it's not for people's individual ranches or individual pastures. But that's certainly better than where we started several years ago, which was at the County level. Try and tell you one estimate for your whole County. So we're excited to be down to that local, more local area.

That's what Grass-Cast is in general, you, you would look at the Grass-Cast map, you would find your location and it would have a color. And that color is trying to tell you whether we think your area is going to see some percent higher growth than you would normally for your area, or some percent less, again, pounds per acre, than is typical for your area.

And I'm going to pause there because that sounds really simple. A nice single map with colors for your location. Unfortunately it's not quite that simple. So I'm going to go one level deeper and you can decide whether you want to listen to this part. We know, right, what Grass-Cast is trying to do is look into the future.

We're trying to look two or three or four months down the road and anticipate how well your rangelands are going to grow. And we know that is driven by the daily weather patterns that end up coming through your area, precipitation and temperatures. And we know that those things are really hard to forecast, especially in our region where the weather is just so fickle and volatile, can change on a dime.

And so we've realized we can't just put out one map of what we think is going to happen over the next three to four month growing season and expect people to trust us. I wouldn't trust that because I know how fickle the weather is. And so what we heard from our, our early adopters was that they, you know, that they rightfully weren't going to trust a single map either. That instead they would rather have us present a few different possible scenarios.

And so when you see the Grass-Cast product today on the website, you're going to see three maps. And those, each of those maps kind of tell you what I described a moment ago about how well we think rangelands are going to grow in your area, but it's under three different weather scenarios. So on the left, there's a map that says what if. What if over the rest of the growing season, your area gets above-normal precipitation.

We feed that above normal precipitation into our Grass-Cast model and it spits out a map that says, if that's the case, if you have above-normal precipitation, then here's how well we think your rangelands will grow. And therefore what color your local area is coded. But what if we're wrong? What if instead, you only get near-normal amounts of precipitation.

How different would the Grass-Cast map look under that scenario? It's the middle map that you'll see. And then finally the scenario nobody likes, what if the spigot just turns off, and for the rest of the growing season, it's below-normal precipitation? How badly might my local area suffer from that, kind of how low might production be?

And so that's the map on the right. So this three map approach, that's what you'll see today. That's the Grass-Cast product. And it gives people a range of possibilities. And that range starts getting narrower and narrower as the growing season unfolds. And as we observe more and more of that weather, we don't have to guess quite as much of it.

But it also kind of helps signal areas on that map where let's say two of the three maps are signaling to us that, Oh gosh. We think this area might suffer below normal amounts of production, even if they do get above-normal amounts of rain. So long story short, what does the Grass-Cast product do?

That's my five-minute rendition.

Emile Elias: [00:12:03] Excellent Dannele, thank you. And it, it's really interesting how it's really geared towards the producers. It's geared towards people who are making the decisions, trying to make it easier. The entire story you just told is, you know, we were first giving this type of information. It wasn't really what people were looking at.

And so it's an evolution of making things easier. And you've even hinted on a limitation. You said, you know, at one point we were just giving one map and we realized that was a limitation. And so we decided to provide three maps with different future scenarios. So the limitation really being that predicting rainfall is hard, right? And so we want to give you the multiple options to choose from as a manager. And so I'm wondering, are there any other big limitations or challenges that you see with Grass-Cast and that you're grappling with? 

Dannele Peck: [00:13:00] Absolutely. Like all models, Grass-Cast does have limitations. We still think it's helpful and useful.

But it's important to acknowledge your limitations. Related to precipitation, Grass-Cast does try to take observed precipitation for the parts of the growing season that we have seen already. So we mentioned earlier that Grass-Cast is released for the first time in early spring.

But then every two weeks it gets updated. And the reason we're updating it is because over those two weeks, we've observed what the precipitation and temperatures were, we don't have to guess anymore. And so by updating it every two weeks, again, the forecast gets more and more accurate, the range of possibilities narrows further and further.

So you get more certainty. But to do that, we need observed precipitation data and some of us are lucky and we live in a grid cell that happens to have a high quality weather station that we can draw precipitation data from and feel like it represents our area well, but we're covering some really rural and remote areas where there aren't a lot of official weather stations.

And for those locations we need, we need observed precipitation data to feed into our model. And so we have to go out and look for where is the nearest station that has good high-quality data to use in the Grass-Cast model. And for some locations, those stations might be quite a ways away on the landscape.

You know, we'll find the nearest three to five stations in your area. In quotes “your area”. And we take a weighted average of them to make you know, kind of an informed estimate or an interpolation of how much precipitation your grid cell received over the last several weeks. And those interpolations or, you know, those weighted averages are better for some areas and not great for others.

And so sometimes we do get feedback on Grass-Cast that says, Hey, the color, the color you have for my grid cell just doesn't make sense to me. Like that's not what I'm experiencing at my place. And the very first thing that we look into is what precipitation estimates did we use for that location and how do they compare with what this person on the ground has observed themselves?

We get a lot of really awesome CoCoRaHS volunteers who go out faithfully every morning and check their CoCoRaHS gauge and record and report their observations. Right now, we're not able to use those CoCoRaHS observations because many of them are not long enough and we don't have a long enough kind of historical record, but we're trying, we're trying to find ways to incorporate more of that citizen science precipitation data to help in those locations that don't have good official weather station data to feed into our model.

Emile Elias: [00:16:16] Great. Thanks Dannele. And as you're talking about CoCoRaHS, it makes me think those zeros matter, right. It really matters when we know that you didn't get any precipitation. So I always think, keep recording, keep recording. Even if it's not raining, that's really helpful information. And so you gave us the information about sort of the evolution of Grass-Cast or the middle of Grass-Cast, but I'm curious about how it began.

So when did you first start sharing these productivity forecasts and who's involved in creating them and distributing them? 

Dannele Peck: [00:16:50] Yeah, the, I'll start by saying that the research that is behind Grass-Cast, the science  that makes Grass-Cast possible, started decades ago with the minds and the distinguished careers of our primary research scientists.

And that's Dr. Bill Parton at Colorado State University and  Dr. Justin Derner at USDA ARS and all of the awesome scientists in their teams. Those two, Dr. Parton and Dr. Derner, have been thinking for a very long time about what it, what are the drivers of grassland growth and production, and how on earth could we give rangeland managers and ranchers a heads up?

Earlier. How can we give them early warning? So they've been thinking about this, their entire careers, that span decades, but they really got serious about coming up with an actual tool, actual forecast, I would say back in 2015 and 2016 is when they really decided we're going to do this. And so with the help of a multi-agency and multi-institutional team, with people who had all sorts of scientific and outreach expertise, rangeland ecologists and remote sensing experts, climate scientists, statisticians. And even some social scientists like myself were involved. It took a huge team of people and a ton of resources to put together our first prototype Grass-Cast map. And that came together in the spring of 2017. So we had our single little Grass-Cast map for six Northern Plains States.

And we carried those out to our trusted partners in the field with NRCS and with Extension. And we made them sit in a room with us all day. They each had to have an all day workshop with us to talk through the science and then to help us figure out how to make this prototype more useful and more usable for real ranchers and real rangeland managers.

And so we spent all of 2017 honing the Grass-Cast approach. We went, this is the year that we went from the single map to the three map product that you see today. This is the year that we started working on a website to help make that information accessible. Kind of did a soft rollout to those trusted partners in the Northern Plains throughout the 2017 growing season, to see how it goes, what are our strengths and our weaknesses.

And by 2018, the spring of 2018, we were ready for a full public rollout in the Northern Plains. And so we did that. In the meantime, throughout 2018, we were working on the science behind the scenes to see if we could expand it to the Southern Plains. And thankfully the science worked pretty slick.

And so in 2019, we were able to roll it out to the general public in the Southern Plains States. And then again, we continued behind the scenes picking away at another region and we were really proud and excited, with your help Emile, to expand it to the Southwest in the summer, spring and summer of 2020.

So that's where, how we got here, where we've been.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:20:26] Thanks, Dannele. So you've talked a little bit about how Grass-Cast was created to answer a problem that you identified and really provide a useful product for range, for ranchers and managers. And, you know, on this podcast, we often ask people how their research fits into the broader social context, and so I'm wondering if you could elaborate just a little bit more on the importance of the tool and why you think it's so important. 

Dannele Peck: [00:20:54] I love this question. It's, it's why we do what we do at the Climate Hubs. Grass-Cast is important because drought is such a difficult event to manage through. We can't see perfectly into the future. There's a lot of uncertainty about how a growing season might, might unfold or evolve. And even when you see the hints of a drought coming, you always hold out hope for that next, rainfall event. We just enjoyed one here in my area, in the Northern Plains. We just had a huge March snow storm. That was the answer to everybody's prayers.

So we do, we hold out, hope and we wait, and we wait and we wait. And sometimes that waiting ends up getting us in trouble from, from a resource management perspective. So I know as an economist, how difficult it is to make decisions under uncertainty, and, and the power of wanting to wait. And sometimes the cost we, that we end up paying for that waiting.

I think that's the power of Grass-Cast, and, and the moment that I realized this was, was back in 2018. So this was our first year going public with Grass-Cast. It was June. I was in Colorado at a, at a Cattleman's event. And I was at our trade show booth for the Climate Hub, talking with individual ranchers about the conditions they were seeing out on the ground, on their ranch or in their local area, and they were sharing that things were starting to look a little scary. And so I followed up and asked kind of, well, what are you thinking about doing you know, there's this whole set of things that we can do when we start to see hints of drought, but I was curious, you know, what do they reach for first and, about half of the folks that I talked to when I asked them kind of what actions they were thinking about taking about half of them told me they were praying for rain.

And I get that, again, you don't last long in agriculture, if you're not optimistic and have hope, but hope is no substitute for a drought plan. And so the power of Grass-Cast was that I was able to show them the Grass-Cast map and say, well, let's take a look. It's June. What if your prayers are answered, what if you do get that big lifesaving rain?

That's what's, you know, that's the scenario over here on the left of the Grass-Cast maps. If from this point forward, you get above average precipitation. How much is it going to help? How well is your grass going to bounce back from the conditions it's experienced so far and sadly that year, for Colorado, much of Colorado the above average precipitation map for Grass-Cast was still showing that they were going to have 15 to 30% fewer pounds per acre than normal. And so I, you know, sadly, I, I had to say like, even if your prayers are answered, we're still gonna need to take action here. And I saw so many light bulbs go off in that moment that they just realized like, shoot, I can't put this off any longer. I need to start taking action now. 

And we all know that in a drought, if you knew ahead of time, you were going to be in a drought, the sooner you act the better. And so for me, that was the light bulb moment about the power of Grass-Cast and, and how does it fit into that broader social context of how difficult it is to know when you're in a drought and to know that it's time to take action.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:24:44] Yeah. And there's really something to be said about being able to visualize those things. Right. It's one thing to, you know, tell people something or say, but when they actually see it, right. Yeah, you really see those light bulbs go off. And so I'm curious if you've received any feedback from producers and resource managers about the tool and if so, what they're telling you about it?

Dannele Peck: [00:25:08] Yeah, we do. We spend a lot of time. Kind of pre COVID. We spent a lot of time out on the road again at association events and at rangeland management conferences talking with people about Grass-Cast and answering their questions. We do a lot of webinars which have been great because we've been able to reach some folks in more remote areas that that can join virtually.

And they give us feedback on how it's working for their area and, and it's, it's good and bad. You know, I'm thankful for honest feedback and a lot of the feedback is positive that they're really grateful to have a product that has translated a very complex system. They've taken some of the guesswork out of it for them, especially again, in areas where those three maps are sending strong signals about, you know, two of the three maps are showing that your area is likely to be in trouble or better yet two of the three maps are showing. Gosh, even if the spigot turns off your area looks like it's going to be in good shape. That's the message on the positive side that we've heard from our users that they really do appreciate having that kind of early warning system. And then we've talked about some of the weaknesses of Grass-Cast.

And so I do hear from people who are looking at their local grid cell and, and, and think that it's off. You know, think that the estimate isn't quite right. And we take those really seriously. I really appreciate getting that feedback. And as a Grass-Cast team, we go, when we dig into our model and we dig into our data to try and figure out what's going on.

And, and how can we make the model work better in this location? Most of the time it does. It comes back to precipitation observations. For the locations that have an official weather station, it tends to work well. And for very remote areas that, that the nearest official weather stations are miles and miles and miles away.

Those are the areas where we struggle. And one of the lessons is we need more, we need more weather stations, or we need to figure out how to get more CoCoRaHS volunteers and actually use their data in the Grass-Cast product. So keep the feedback coming. I always tell people positive, or negative. I want to hear it. And, and there is a way on our website. There's a contact us page where you can drop us a note to let us know if it's working well or not in your area. 

Emile Elias: [00:27:40] All right. Thanks, Dannele. Yeah, it's interesting to hear what people have to say. And I know it's a really useful tool and it's also getting better and better by you taking that feedback and that information and, and using it and modifying it and using an iterative approach.

That just seems to be how it's worked over the years. And you had mentioned a while ago, the scientific history underpinning Grass-Cast, the decades of scientific research. And that really feeds into how the Climate Hubs operate to support data-driven decisions and, scientific information being used to help people make management decisions.

And so I know that we talked about Bill Parton at Colorado State University and his team and the people that helped you know, Justin Derner at Agricultural Research Service that helped, to push the idea forward, but there are also other research teams that are estimating forage production in different ways across the United States.

And so I wonder if you can tell us about how Grass-Cast and this effort differs from those other efforts.

Dannele Peck: [00:28:54] Yeah. That's a really important question, Emile. Rangelands are such an important resource in the Western US and used and loved by so many. So it is a really intense area of research with lots of people interested in, in helping the decision makers on the ground get the information that they need.

And I've been really lucky lately at a few different professional meetings to get to interact with all of them, not all, but many of the other teams working in this arena and learn more about their tools and talk about how we compliment each other's efforts. We all do something different and we're all trying to get at a slightly different piece of information that, that we know will be useful to, you know, some subset of the rangeland managers out there.

So it's been great to talk with them and it's really helped me hone in on what's unique about Grass-Cast. And Grass-Cast doesn't do everything. It doesn't provide exactly every piece of information that a rangeland manager is looking for.

That's why we need all of those other tools. What Grass-Cast does that is unique though. It's one of the very few tools that tries to look into the future. So many of the tools, many of the other tools are doing an amazing job of reconstructing the past record of a, of a location and often at a finer scale than we're able to do.

Some get down to the 30 meter pixels or even three meter pixels to tell you the history of a particular location on, on a rangeland and how its production has changed through time. And. And then there's another set of tools that really focus on real time information. If you could, you know, it's one thing to look out your window at the rangeland that's right there and see what it looks like.

What if you manage an enormous multi-million acre rangeland, where you can't get out and look at on the ground conditions, then those real time monitoring tools. A lot of them are satellite based information about kind of how green and, and robust that grass is growing. Those are amazing, right. And have their place.

Grass-Cast is one of the few that tries to look into the future. So not into the past, not into real-time conditions, but to try and peer into the future two or three or four months down the road and tell you what, how much we think, how much grass we think we'll be standing there at the peak of your growing season.

That's our niche. That's the piece of information we can bring to the table. But I think that's most powerful when combined with the other types of information too. So again, I love the idea of, of using these tools side by side to give you the full picture-what's happened in the past, what does it look like at this very moment? And what do we think is going to happen over the next few months? 

Emile Elias: [00:31:58] Absolutely, it’s so great to have these different research teams, investigating questions related to precipitation and drought and productivity and leading to supporting livestock managers and rangelands and ecosystems. So yeah, all of, all of them are needed and it's exciting that there are people approaching this question from different vantage points.

So I'm really curious about this next question. What is your biggest source of pride in terms of Grass-Cast? 

Dannele Peck: [00:32:33] I have, I have two, kind of two related thoughts on this one. One source of pride is taking scientific ideas that have been stewing for decades, and finally putting them together in a way that directly makes it useful to rangeland managers and ranchers. How cool when science goes from theory to something that's truly useful and usable. So that's one source of pride. Related to that is the enormous team effort it took to make that happen. And again, It brought multiple USDA agencies together, and Ag Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

They've both really heavily invested in Grass-Cast. We have them to thank for kind of making a lot of the science possible and making our website possible. So bringing together multiple USDA agencies in a shared effort, but then bringing them together with multiple universities. It's hard to even begin to start to list those.

We've talked about Colorado State University, but our remote sensing expertise at the University of Arizona and data and climate expertise from the University of Nebraska and then dozens of data contributors throughout our current Grass-Cast footprint that have contributed those long-term rangeland clippings, datasets that they've had around for, for decades.

Bringing all of just that, all of that scientific expertise and the amount of time that people have poured into this effort to get the science right. But then pairing it with the people part of the project. It's not just science, it's science and people. And how do people use the science? And how can we make the science more helpful to them?

I'm really proud of that piece. Right? We took our prototype, simple Grass-Cast map out to our partners in the field. Again, a lot of NRCS and Extension folks came together and put their time in and really shaped what you see today as a Grass-Cast product. It would not be what it is today. If we had not gone out and asked our trusted partners to help us out and to use their on the ground, knowledge and experience to help shape this product. So, yeah, that's what I'm most proud of is that it's brought together people from multiple institutions, multiple agencies, multiple disciplines, multiple points of view and experiences to hone and craft a product that I think is helpful. And there's lots of ways we need to make it better and it'll keep improving.

But dang, I'm proud of the effort everybody has put into this so far. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:35:30] Dannele you led perfectly into my next question. Grass-Cast is all about the future. So what do you see for the future of Grass-Cast? What do you, what are your next, your plans, what's next?

Dannele Peck: [00:35:42] Oh, the future is fraught with uncertainty and scenarios, but I have some ideas. First and foremost, we are always looking for ways to improve Grass-Cast as it is, in its current footprint. And we know that there, that there are things we need to do better. And we've talked about some of those, those things for the current kind of Northern Plains, Southern Plains and the Southwest states of New Mexico and Arizona. So we have a whole list of ways we want to make that existing product better, given the time and the resources and the expertise.

So that's, that's one plan is to, to do better. What we're currently doing. And then the next earlier you asked me what kind of feedback we get from producers. And the next, most often question I get is why don't you have Grass-Cast for my area? Or how soon can you get Grass-Cast to our location?

And so the future is always asking, where would Grass-Cast be most helpful next? And we get lots of answers to that question. You know, we get questions from the East. Can you pull this? Can you pull this farther east for us? And there are challenges in doing that. The ecosystems are very different as you move further east and, and all of those scientific relationships change.

And so expansion, is, it always involves quite a bit of effort and in unique scientific research. We get requests to, to pull Grass-Cast to the West. You know, whether that's into California or into the great basin, and again, unique ecosystems with unique drivers of rangeland growth, unique challenges like shrubby areas or forest overstory that make the Grass-Cast process more challenging.

But yeah, in the future, we always have our ears to the ground. Trying to listen, who is asking for Grass-Cast, where do we think it could work well, you know, we don't want to expand Grass-Cast to an area where we don't think it's going to be very accurate. So yeah, strategically thinking about where to go next and to, and to serve whom.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:38:06] Well, thank you very much. It really seems like Grass-Cast is a truly collaborative product that is useful for producers and managers. So just lastly, is there anything else that you'd like to leave listeners with today before we say goodbye? 

Dannele Peck: [00:38:24] Just thanks again to everyone who has poured so much time and effort and resources into making Grass-Cast possible.

And again, thanks, especially to our funders USDA ARS, and NRCS. We couldn't have done it without them. And there have been some other funders along the way. And I apologize that I don't have my full list, but beyond the funding, again, my thanks to, just dozens and dozens and dozens of people who have contributed to Grass-Cast, even if they don't remember doing it, you know, whether it was that one dataset or that one comment they've made that has made Grass-Cast better for it.

So my thanks to them and, and keep the, keep the feedback rolling for us. Keep, keep talking to us and letting us know what we could do better.

Sarah LeRoy: [00:39:11] Great. So, yeah, we'll include the link to Grass-Cast, of course, in the description for this podcast and for all our listeners, if you have feedback, please share it.

So, thanks again Dannele. We appreciate you taking the time today. 

Dannele Peck: [00:39:26] Thank you so much. You can tell, I love talking about Grass-Cast. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:39:31] That's great. You're passionate about a product that you've made.

Dannele Peck: [00:39:34] And you guys have wonderful thought provoking questions. So, thanks. 

Sarah LeRoy: [00:39:38] Okay. Thanks. 

Emile Elias: [00:39:39] I can't wait to see where it goes in the future, Dannele I'm excited to see what happens next. 

Dannele Peck: [00:39:46] Thank you to Emile thank you.

Emile Elias: Thanks for listening to Come Rain or Shine, podcast of the USDA Southwest Climate Hub

Sarah LeRoy: and the USGS Southwest CASC. If you liked this podcast, don't forget to rate or review it and subscribe for more great episodes. A special thanks to our production crew, Skye Aney and Reanna Burnett. If you want more information, have any questions for the speakers or would like to offer feedback, please reach out to us via our websites.