Phenology studies the seasonal timing of different developmental stages and the life cycles of plants and animals. Understanding the processes that impact these developmental stages and forecasting phenological stages are important to growers, food processors, crop insurance and seed companies, the commodities markets, and those who enjoy the aesthetics of plants. Similarly, climate change modeling and satellite-based forecasting systems need basic phenology networks and models to interpret their spectral data, especially the “greenness” or photosynthetic response to the environment. In Nebraska and the High Plains region, a phenology network and the resulting models are needed to: 1) simulate alternative crop adaptation and rotations, 2) better target genotypes with value added quality traits to the landscape, 3) improve irrigation water management, 4) design new decision support systems for integrated pest management and organic agroecosystems, forecast insect and plant disease outbreaks, and 5) provide the cyberinfrastructure that can lead to information fusion for complex ecosystems and societies.
Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of different developmental stages, or more simply the life cycles of plant and animals (after Bradley et al., 1999). Organismal phenological development is driven by thermal time and modified by genes that control vernalization (or dormancy) and photoperiod. At the ecosystem level, there is a critical need to understand how the phenology of the myriad of co-existing organisms are related to each other so that partial information from these organisms can be used to develop an indepth understanding of the ecosystem. For example, we hope to integrate information from key cultivars (wheat, soybeans, corn, grapes, and ornamentals) and indicator species (prairie grasses or threatened/endangered species) to develop a rich understanding of ecosystem health and its response to environmental change.