UV-B Radiation Primer

The USDA UV-B Monitoring and Research Program offices are located right by campus on the east side of Shields street, between Prospect Road and Elizabeth Street in Fort Collins. We are located about 60 miles north of Denver, Colorado.

Our physical address is:

USDA UV-B Monitoring and Research Program, CSU
1304 South Shields Street,
Fort Collins, Colorado 80521-4528

Our mailing address is:

UV-B Project, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
1499 Campus Delivery, CSU
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1499

Location Map

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), steward of agriculture for the nation, has long been concerned for the impacts of the climate change. Changes in climate and weather patterns can lead to unprecedented changes in the Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, rising the concern of direct and indirect effects to crops, ecosystems and human.

In January 1991 and March 1992 USDA sponsored two workshops to develop their concept of a national UV monitoring network. Later in 1992, through legislative authority under the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) [formerly Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES)], USDA initiated and funded the UV-B Monitoring and Research Program (UVMRP), headquartered at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The UVMRP is guided by NIFA's mission To invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges and vision To Catalyze transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to address agricultural challenges. Specifically, the UVMRP addresses NIFA Strategic Plan Goal to Advance the development and delivery of science for agricultural, forest, and range systems adapted to climate variability and to mitigate climate impacts.

The UVMRP fulfills these mandates by establishing three program areas:

  • Monitor and examine UV-B radiation at the Earth’s surface
  • Study the interaction among UV-B radiation, agriculture crops/production, forest, ecosystem, and climate
  • Develop an Integrated Agricultural Impact Assessment System

The climatologic network is designed to provide an adequate density of measurement sites to establish the spatial and temporal characteristics of UV-B irradiance. The network follows a grid-based design which divides the country into 26 regions of approximately equal-area. Sites are located primarily in rural areas, with particular consideration given to agricultural and forest regions. Specifically the monitoring program:

  • Provides information to the agricultural community and others about the climatological and geographical distribution of UV-B irradiance;
  • Furnishes the basic information necessary to support evaluations of the potential damaging effects of UV-B to agricultural crops and forests;
  • Supplies ground truth for satellite measurements of UV-B, and basic information for radiation transfer model calculations; and
  • Establishes long-term records of UV-B irradiance necessary to assess trends.

For more detailed information please look under the above Monitoring Network.

With collaborators from Mississippi State University and Colorado State University, the UVMRP studies the isolated effects of UV-B radiation and combined effects of UV-B radiation with other climate stress factors such as moisture (drought), temperature, ozone, soil nutrients and CO2 on agricultural crops/production. Data derived from these studies are quantified as modules for incorporation into integrated climate-crop model systems.

UV-B radiation effects study goals are:

  • Understand both the negative and compounding effects of UV-B radiation on agricultural crops/production in isolation or in concert with other climate stress factors;
  • Develop quantitative algorithms that can be incorporated into climate-crop model systems;
  • Work with agronomists to develop possible solutions to overcome these effects of UV-B radiation on crops.

For more detailed information please look under Effects.

The agricultural community and decision makers require reliable crop yield assessment tools to determine optimal cultural practices, assess risks and risk management strategies, and define economic impacts. The UVMRP works with collaborators from the University of Maryland to develop an Integrated Agricultural Impact Assessment System that will couple a state-of-the-art regional climate model with modified crop models to study climate-crop interactions and related economic impacts stemming from crop response to a wide range of climate stressors. This system is tailored to the agricultural community, researchers, and decision makers and will provide a prediction and assessment tool which will deliver credible products with spatial and temporal resolution better than currently available.

The UVMRP also works with scientists from Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory (NREL), Colorado State University to develop a UV-B radiation module in the biogiochemical model DayCent. The modified DayCent will have the capability to simulate the effects of UV-B radiation alone or in combination with other climate stressors on plant litter photodegradation and microbe inhibition, in addition to the capability to simulate traditional ecosystem dynamics such as plant growth and death, soil water, heat, decomposition, and trace gases emission.

For more detailed information please look under Modeling.