Ag Data Commons

File(s) stored somewhere else

Please note: Linked content is NOT stored on Ag Data Commons and we can't guarantee its availability, quality, security or accept any liability.

Grass-Cast Database - Data on aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), climate data, NDVI, and cattle weight gain for Western U.S. rangelands

posted on 2024-05-01, 02:22 authored by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Grass-Cast: Experimental Grassland Productivity Forecast for the Great Plains

Grass-Cast uses almost 40 years of historical data on weather and vegetation growth in order to project grassland productivity in the Western U.S. More details on the projection model and method can be found at

Every spring, ranchers in the drought‐prone U.S. Great Plains face the same difficult challenge—trying to estimate how much forage will be available for livestock to graze during the upcoming summer grazing season. To reduce this uncertainty in predicting forage availability, we developed an innovative new grassland productivity forecast system, named Grass‐Cast, to provide science‐informed estimates of growing season aboveground net primary production (ANPP). Grass‐Cast uses over 30 yr of historical data including weather and the satellite‐derived normalized vegetation difference index (NDVI)—combined with ecosystem modeling and seasonal precipitation forecasts—to predict if rangelands in individual counties are likely to produce below‐normal, near‐normal, or above‐normal amounts of grass biomass (lbs/ac). Grass‐Cast also provides a view of rangeland productivity in the broader region, to assist in larger‐scale decision‐making—such as where forage resources for grazing might be more plentiful if a rancher’s own region is at risk of drought. Grass‐Cast is updated approximately every two weeks from April through July. Each Grass‐Cast forecast provides three scenarios of ANPP for the upcoming growing season based on different precipitation outlooks. Near real‐time 8‐d NDVI can be used to supplement Grass‐Cast in predicting cumulative growing season NDVI and ANPP starting in mid‐April for the Southern Great Plains and mid‐May to early June for the Central and Northern Great Plains. Here, we present the scientific basis and methods for Grass‐Cast along with the county‐level production forecasts from 2017 and 2018 for ten states in the U.S. Great Plains. The correlation between early growing season forecasts and the end‐of‐growing season ANPP estimate is >50% by late May or early June. In a retrospective evaluation, we compared Grass‐Cast end‐of‐growing season ANPP results to an independent dataset and found that the two agreed 69% of the time over a 20‐yr period. Although some predictive tools exist for forecasting upcoming growing season conditions, none predict actual productivity for the entire Great Plains. The Grass‐Cast system could be adapted to predict grassland ANPP outside of the Great Plains or to predict perennial biofuel grass production.

This new experimental grassland forecast is the result of a collaboration between Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Drought Mitigation Center, and the University of Arizona. Funding for this project was provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Watch for updates on the Grass-Cast website or on Twitter (@PeckAgEc). Project Contact: Dannele Peck, Director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub, at or 970-744-9043.

Resources in this dataset:

  • Resource Title: Cattle weight gain.

    File Name: Cattle_weight_gains.xlsx

    Resource Description: Cattle weight gain data for Grass-Cast Database.

  • Resource Title: NDVI.

    File Name: NDVI.xlsx

    Resource Description: Annual NDVI growing season values for Grass-Cast sites. See readme for more information and NDVI_raw for the raw values.

  • Resource Title: NDVI_raw .

    File Name: NDVI_raw.xlsx

    Resource Description: Raw bimonthly NDVI values for Grass-Cast sites.

  • Resource Title: ANPP.

    File Name: ANPP.xlsx

    Resource Description: Dataset for annual aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP). Excel sheet is broken into two tabs, 1) 'readme' describing the data, 2) 'ANPP' with the actual data.

  • Resource Title: Grass-Cast_sitelist .

    File Name: Grass-Cast_sitelist.xlsx

    Resource Description: This provides a list of sites-studies that are currently incorporated into the Database as well as meta-data and contact info associated with the data sets. Includes a 'readme' tab and 'sitelist' tab.

  • Resource Title: Grass-Cast_AgDataCommons_overview.

    File Name: Grass-Cast_AgDataCommons_download.html

    Resource Description: Html document that shows database overview information. This document provides a glimpse of the data tables available within the data resource as well as respective meta-data tables. The R script (R markdown, .Rmd format) that generates the html file, and can be used to upload the Grass-Cast associated Ag Data Commons data files can be downloaded at the 'Grass-Cast R script' zip folder. The Grass-Cast files still need to be locally downloaded before use, but we are looking to make a download automated.

  • Resource Title: Grass-Cast R script .

    File Name:

    Resource Description: R script (in Rmarkdown [Rmd] format) for uploading and looking at Grass-Cast data.

This record was taken from the USDA Enterprise Data Inventory that feeds into the catalog. Data for this record includes the following resources:
For complete information, please visit




Data contact name

Dorich, Chris

Data contact email


Agricultural Research Service


  • irregular


  • Not specified

ISO Topic Category

  • environment

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

Natural Resources Conservation Service

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service
  • 005:53 - Natural Resources Conservation Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager