The beginnings of the USDA UVMRP stem from a series of USDA sponsored workshops, held for the purpose of determining the type of response that might be necessary to address the potential threat of UV radiation to US agriculture (Gibson 1991, 1992; Science and Policy Associates, 1992; O'Hara and O'Hara, 1993). Workshop participants, representing various universities, research institutions, and governmental agencies, recommended that the USDA establish a monitoring network to support research for determining the geographical distribution and temporal trends of the effects of UV-B radiation on plants and animals.
The USDA UVMRP was initiated in 1992, through a grant to Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO, USA) authorized by Congress under the USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES) Special Research Grant authority, to provide the agricultural science research community with the information necessary to determine if changing levels of UV-B radiation would threaten food and fiber production in the U.S. (Bigelow et al., 1998). The primary objective of the program was defined as providing information to the agricultural research community about the geographic and temporal distribution of UV-B irradiance in the U.S. It was recognized later, however, that there was a critical need for experimental and modeling research to examine the effects of enhanced UV-B radiation levels on crops and animals in order to meet the USDA objectives and to cope with the emerging challenges from the scientific community, such as the quantification of the effects, their variations among species and biochemical processes, their interactions with other biotic and abiotic factors, and gene control responses to UV-B radiation. Although some recent measurements indicate the start of a turnaround in stratospheric ozone, its recovery will likely take decades and is influenced by many factors (Staehelin et al., 2001; Newchurch et al., 2003; Reinsel et al., 2005; WMO, 2007). Great uncertainties exist in the future levels of surface UV radiation because it will be additionally affected by changes in clouds and aerosols (Bredahl et al., 2004; Kerr, 2005; McKenzie et al., 2007). The effects of UV radiation on plants, animals, ecosystems, and human health are complex and interact with other stress factors (Rozema et al., 1997; Yuan et al., 1998; Grant, 1999; Tegelberg et al., 2002; Gao et al., 2002, 2003; Caldwell et al., 2003; Clarke and Harris, 2003; Flint et al., 2003; Kulandaivelu and Tevini, 2003; Kakani et al., 2003; Reddy et al., 2003; Warren et al., 2003; Bassman, 2004; Turtola et al., 2005). Observations of visible and UV solar radiation reaching the ground are necessary in order to quantify changes in atmospheric transmission which in turn drive the terrestrial ecosystems.
The UVMRP consists of three major components: (1) quality solar measurement and research in atmospheric radiation transfer, especially in UV wavelengths; (2) research to determine the effects of enhanced UV radiation on specific plants and agricultural crops to develop methods to lessen these effects and ensure crop productivity; (3) crop growth and production assessment modeling that accurately responds to various precipitation, temperature, and solar radiation scenarios. This chapter describes the UVMRP with an emphasis on the Program's data and derived products, the web-accessible database, and its role in facilitating research on agricultural effects, establishment of crop growth, and a production assessment modeling system.
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