Southwestern Ontario weather measurement system lets farmers use minute meteorological data
By Matt McIntosh for AgInnovation Ontario
Farmers are notoriously keen meteorologists, but the weather information readily available to them isn’t always the most precise. That can be a bit nerve-wracking when your livelihood depends on conditions at the beanstalk level.
In an effort to make weather information more practical for individual farmers, AGRIS Cooperative Ltd., together with Wanstead Farmer’s Cooperative and Haggerty Creek Ltd. launched the AGGrower Daily Dashboard.
This lets them offer an up-to-the-minute rainfall and temperature data service using 80 automated and 200 manual weather stations.
Wirelessly connected and distributed at 10 kilometre intervals between Essex, Sarnia, Mount Brydges, and the northern shore of Lake Erie, the stations measure rainfall and temperature in their immediate area.
Gathered data is then fed back to a central database, which farmers can access through their computer or mobile device. The difference, though, is that those measurements can be taken by the metrerather than the kilometre.
Dale Cowan, a senior agronomist and sales manager with AGRIS and Wanstead Farmers Cooperatives, described AGGrower Dashboard as a “precipitation weather data network” that makes very specific weather information “available to farmers in real-time.”
Such information, he said, helps farmers make immediate management decisions that reflect the needs of each individual field.
“No one wants to get information from a paper three weeks after they could have used it,” Cowan said. “The Dashboard lets you make growing decisions when it matters, with notifications coming right to your phone or tablet.”
The Dashboard is designed to help all aspects of crop production. Farmers can adjust planting schedules to take advantage of drier parts of their farm during damp conditions, adjust pesticide applications based on what stage of growth the plants are in, or time fertilizer application more precisely to ensure nutrients stay where they are needed – something particularly important for farms near Lake Erie and its issues with algae.
It’s another way, according to Cowan, that farmers can develop an effective, multi-faceted nutrient and pest management plan, and generally manage resources in a more economical and environmentally sustainable way.
This is the first year AGGrower Dashboard is operational, with each of the 80 weather stations installed in the summer of 2016. Farmers looking to access the database have to register and log onto the AGGrower Dashboard website, and there is a $250 per year charge for access.
Cowan said once they are in, though, farmers simply plot their fields, or request the company to transfer their field boundaries from the database and they can start receiving personalized data and notifications to help them plan their individual growing schedules.
The AGGrower Dashboard project is supported by Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with GF2 delivery in Ontario.
Photo source: AGRIS Co-operative