The Wisdom of High-Def Weather Information

Posted in: Technology     

Farmers have always been obsessed with the weather. What’s different now is that with new technologies and greater understanding they can mitigate some of its impact on their bottom line.

There are few careers in this life that are more dependent on weather than farming.

Farmers, by nature, are notoriously obsessive about the weather — and rightly so. It touches all aspects of their life and livelihood.
In most instances, the relationship between farmers and the weather is very one-sided. Mother Nature is the boss — she levels the judgement and farmers find themselves either reaping the benefits or salvaging the remains.

But what if there was a different way to look at weather and we were able to respond in a proactive way?

First, while growers can’t influence the weather, they can influence, through their management decisions, how broad weather patterns affect their bottom line.
“When we talk about weather, that’s what we’re doing,” explains Markus Braaten, Agri-Trend’s U.S. Director of Knowledge Team. “It’s hot and dry — but what does it mean for the crop? Can I anticipate a specific yield loss that might cause me to change my management? Should I roll that extra shot of nitrogen? Should I rein that in if we’re setting up for a year where my yields will be compromised?

“It’s really about understanding how these weather factors impact my potential productivity and adjusting,” he adds. “It means 
being nimble enough to take advantage of these events.”
In order to do this, Braaten looks at both current weather conditions and historic weather data; both provide critical pieces of information.


Current Weather Conditions


A new trend, known as ‘high-definition weather data’, allows growers to go from referring to a regional weather map, to a field-level precipitation map. “We can see rainfall patterns at the field and eventually zone level. It’s essentially moving to Precision Weather, just like we moved to Precision Ag.”


Historical Weather or Climate Data


Understanding historical weather patterns is also crucial. According to Braaten, growers need to track weather deviations — and, perhaps more importantly, the way their crop responds to those ‘anomalies’.
Braaten says he’s noticing a promising shift among growers when it comes to weather management — from reactive, to proactive. 
 “I think the conversation has evolved a bit,” he says. “We used to be automatically jumping onto what are the ramifications of this weather event? Now, if we can track our data and see how the crop responded when that weather hit in the past, we can make adjustments.”


And not just in agronomic decisions. This can also have a significant impact on grain marketing strategies.
“If a weather event happens, how do I change my marketing strategy to account for that? These decisions can flow from the data — 
and this is where it gets really exciting. Now I can tie this weather feed into all the other data I am using on my farm. I can tweak the system to be more efficient given what I know about the weather.”

About the Author
Tracy Tjaden

Tjaden is a Canadian journalist who has spent the majority of her career writing and editing for magazines, primarily business-related titles.

She grew up on a farm near Winnipeg, worked at several newspapers in Canada before specializing in magazines, with a focus on business, finance and agriculture.

Tjaden was Editor of BCBusiness Magazine in Vancouver and Managing Editor of a financial magazine in New York City before returning to Winnipeg. She is currently editor of the AgAdvance Journal and agadvance online, and can be reached at ttjaden@theagadvance.com

 


comments powered by Disqus