Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New USDA zone map released

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its first new climate zone map in more than new decades. The new 2012 map, downloadable here (various other versions here), replaces the previous map published in 1990. According to USA Today, the new map is much more localized — in fact, it's accurate down to one-half mile. One can enter their zip code into a search box (look to the upper right of the page) and see their precise climate zone.

As one might expect, the new map indicates milder climates over much of the country. For example, most of Nebraska and Ohio are one zone warmer each. However, most areas ended up being about a half zone warmer. Scientists note that the map is based on temperatures averaged over the last 30 years, so it is not an accurate indicator of global warming.

If you have much experience in the nursery industry, you don't need us to tell you what this means for the marketplace, but here goes, anyway:
  • Growers may want to examine the conditions in the markets they are shipping to and make appropriate adjustments in what they grow and sell.
  • Garden centers may want to check their own local conditions and adjust what they stock and what they recommend to their customers.
  • Gardeners may become more willing to try plants that, until now, have been considered borderline hardy for their area.
Of course, some of these things have already been happening, but the new USDA map does confirm the things many have been seeing. Do you have insights into how the new maps will affect growers in Oregon and beyond? Please let us know in the comments.

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