The word weather can mean a lot of different things to different people. To growers, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, rainfall amounts, solar radiation, and air temperature are just a few pieces of information they regularly use to make critical decisions on their farms everyday. Trying to stay on top of changing weather conditions can be an overwhelming task; one miscalculation could lead to damaging a crop or decreasing a yield. Thankfully, various solutions are available to help growers avoid these pitfalls. On-farm weather stations help growers everywhere to get real-time weather information at their fingertips!
What is on a weather station?
Getting all of this data is a great tool for farmers, but how and where they get the data plays a big role in deciding which weather station to buy. Fortunately, most weather station manufacturers provide the data in the cloud. This enables the grower to access up-to-date weather data 24/7 on their phone, tablet or computer.
Typical weather stations are equipped with sensors to monitor wind speed, wind direction, humidity, rainfall amounts, solar radiation, and air temperature.
Wind Speed & Direction
Monitoring wind speed and direction can help growers avoid spraying chemicals in windy conditions. The damage caused by spray drift can ruin an entire crop and the grower responsible could be held liable.
When it comes to humidity measurements, weather stations can help growers during harvest time. In some states, it’s illegal to send work crews out if the humidity levels are too high. Humidity levels have to be “just right” to harvest peanuts here in the southeast. Before peanuts are priced for market, they are graded for moisture and humidity levels. If the humidity levels are too high, they will bring a lower price.
Nearly all weather stations are equipped with a rain gauge. This a very valuable tool for growers who want wireless on-site rainfall reporting, rather than relying on the local weather reports or a manual on-site rain gauge. As rainfall amounts vary significantly during a storm event, obtaining accurate readings from your field can help you make better decisions regarding irrigation and fertilizing.
Another critical measurement that weather stations provide is solar radiation. Measuring solar radiation allows the grower to make critical decisions regarding soil moisture and evapotranspiration (ET). This impacts when a grower may want to plant a particular crop or not. If solar radiation levels are reading too high, a grower may not want to plant a crop that requires a lot of water, because the rate of evaporation is too high. Not surprisingly, solar radiation can impact irrigation decisions as well.
Where to buy a weather station
Dyacon, established in 2007, sells only industrial weather stations. They have 5 models to choose from that offer different features and are customizable. All of their weather stations offer data logging, wind sensors, and temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors. Dyacon gives the customer an option to lease their hardware as well.
Campbell Scientific offers two different weather station models. One is just for general climate monitoring, the other is for more sophisticated commercial irrigation monitoring. Most Campbell models are completely customized and can be pretty pricey. For larger farms, this may be a good option.
Davis Instruments has a variety of weather stations to choose from. Davis comes in at the low end in terms of price, which makes them a great option for smaller growers or first time users. They offer telemetry at additional cost.
Trellis also offers a wireless weather station that can be bought directly or through your local dealer. We use the Davis Vantage Pro2 GroWeather Cabled Sensor Suite, a versatile integrated, corrosion-proof sensor suite that combines Davis’ anemometer, rain collector, temperature, humidity and solar radiance sensors into one package for rugged reliability and performance. The weather station is solar powered and the data integrates with our Cellular Base Station.
4 tips to consider
Depending on your needs, weather stations can cost anywhere from $395 or, for some very sophisticated models, up to $10,000. Before you decide to purchase a station, consider the following:
Don’t buy the least expensive model. Often times a less expensive weather station translates to fewer sensors on board recording weather data. Most crops need more monitoring and more data than just basic weather information.
Is the software user friendly? Collecting all kinds of weather data is great, but make sure the information is easy-to-use and understand. Ask yourself, “Will I be able to make a decision using this data?”
Placement of the unit is critical. As most models are solar powered, you’ll need to pick a spot in the field that has plenty of sun access, while at the same time gives you the in-field presence you need.
Are you able to get help if you need it? Make sure there’s support behind the scenes. Choose a reliable company with a good product line that you can work with and who is able to help answer questions that will inevitably come up along the way.
Government programs can help
Fortunately, weather stations are considered a conservation tool that qualifies for federal and state cost sharing programs. The best way to get started with the application process for funds is to contact your local NRCS office. Your local representative will be able to tell you if money is available in your area, how to apply for it, and when you would be eligible to be reimbursed for your purchases.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are two cost sharing initiatives that you can take advantage of to offset the cost of purchasing a weather station. Visit your State's EQIP page to learn more. In particular, ask your NRCS representative about the Irrigation Water Management Practice (Code 449).