Farm Weather Stations in Precision Agriculture
The development of agriculture has always been closely related to the interpretation and prediction of weather. In general, if you want to get information about changes in the weather from a weather or news service, the data is likely to come from the weather station at the nearest airport. The actual weather on the ground varies greatly, even within a few kilometers. Of course, even a few degrees of temperature difference or a few millimeters of rainfall can have a huge impact on your farm. That’s where the farm weather stations come in handy.
For example, temperature measurements are often used to determine Growing Degree Days (GDD). This measurement can be used to predict growth stages based on when you planted and the weather since planting. Cooler temperatures mean fewer GDD. Using more accurate temperature information from your fields as opposed to temperatures taken miles away can make big differences in calculating growth stages using GDD. The graph below shows a difference of 6 days in the recommended harvest date given weather information from the farm, vs. information from a regional weather service.
Having more accurate weather data for your land allows you to make much more effective agronomic decisions.
Many farmers have employed weather stations for years using analog instruments and data collection such as rain gauges, barometers and thermometers. Today’s weather sensors and stations are largely digital and can feed information to your computer or mobile device instantly. While by no means an exhaustive list, we’ve outlined a few major components and features you can look for when choosing a personal weather station.
Components of Weather Stations:
Anemometer – Measures wind direction and speed.
Thermometer – Measures atmospheric temperature.
Hygrometer – Measures relative humidity using a percentage measure of water vapour in the air.
Barometer – Measures atmospheric pressure to predict precipitation
Rain Gauge – Measures liquid precipitation using an open container. They usually empty automatically and measure the amount of rainfall over a given time interval.
Pyranometer – Measures solar radiation levels from the sun in watts per square meter (used to calculate ‘evapotranspiration’, the rate at which water evaporates from the soil).
UV Sensor – Measures UV rays from the sun. These sensors are used for precision growing in particular crops like cannabis, where overexposure to UV-rays can stunt leaf growth or affect potency.
Leaf Wetness Sensor – Measures surface moisture of the plants on a scale of 0-15 (dry to saturated). Data from these sensors are used in fungal disease control.
Soil Moisture Sensor – Measures water levels in the soil
Soil Temperature Sensor – Monitors the soil temperature to detect freezing, or high temperatures that can put crops at risk. Also used to calculate rate of evapotranspiration.
Putting The Data To Work
The information gathered from these various sensors can be used in many areas of production, including planting, harvesting, spraying, irrigation, and protection. We will go into some detail on each below.
Soil temperature and moisture are key factors that impact seed germination, and planting too early can have serious consequences in the event of a late spring frost. Atmospheric and soil temperature sensors are useful in determining the right time to plant to give your crops the best chance. A digital weather station can send current temperature conditions to you in real time so you can plant at the best possible time.
Soil moisture sensors can let you know where the ground is too wet or dry to plant it. Soil moisture levels can vary a lot, even within a single field, so being able to test in multiple spots can give you a much more accurate picture of where it is too wet or too dry to plant.
On-farm weather stations can contribute to water savings, for the environment and for your wallet. High quality weather stations featuring rain-gauges, soil moisture sensors, and sensors that can measure evapotranspiration can all be used to assess your crops’ irrigation and watering needs, and to help you avoid excess water use.