Daily, customized weather updates to change the way Ontario farms
Timely access to weather information from farm advisors is set to be a game changer for Ontario farmers. A new weather database providing real-time updates from 80 automated weather stations along with customized weather-based recommendations from agronomists is helping Ontario crop farmers make key growing decisions in real time. Access to this new type of information means farmers can adjust the timing of everything from planting and necessary crop applications to harvest to get the most out of each acre.
Three major Ontario co-operatives, AGRIS Co-operative, Wanstead Co-operative and Haggerty Creek, recognized the need for a weather database providing real-time updates and customized recommendations from agronomists to Ontario growers. In 2016, with Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding accessed through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the group successfully launched the AGGrower Dashboard, a project bringing southwestern Ontario growers together and assisting farmers making informed agronomic decisions.
The AGGrower Dashboard gives producers an edge when it comes to dealing with weather; one of the most unpredictable and volatile aspects of farming. Participating growers have access to a database dashboard with 80 automated weather stations across southwestern Ontario measuring variables including temperature, rainfall and heat units.
“We allow farmers to go onto the database and plot their individual field locations,” explains Dale Cowan, Senior Agronomist, AGRIS and Wanstead co-operatives. “Once they input their planting information, we give them field specific rainfall and heat unit data and then start to map out the growth stages in the crops throughout the growing season.”
This project is a game-changer for the Ontario agricultural industry because it not only allows farmers to access information from the entire region, but also sends farmers timely agronomic advice and recommendations for their crops based on the crop stage and weather.
“Everyone’s interested in how much it rains,” explains Cowan, “but what you have to know from a farm management standpoint, is if it rains, what do I need to do based on my crop growth stage?” The collaboration of the three co-operatives allows producers to make smart, informed decisions that end up benefiting not just the producer, but also the industry, land and environment.
Cowan explains the database using nitrogen fertilizer application as an example. A farmer would never apply nitrogen the day before a big rainfall because the moisture would cause leaching. As a member of the database dashboard, the farmer could have a more accurate reading on weather or receive a warning and know to hold off on nitrogen application. Small management changes like this go a long way in helping the farmer act as an environmental steward of the land.
When producers sign up, they enter geographical and crop information for each of their fields and adjust notification settings to what fits their lifestyle best. Farmers can group fields together to reduce the amount of notifications they receive, or check the site manually.
“Once you put your data in, you can see the entire growth season for your fields,” says Cowan. “Farmers can log onto the website and see weather-wise what’s going on in their fields in near real time.”
This is the first year all 80 weather stations are operating and recording data, but even during partial roll-out the previous year, the 160 early adopters using the dashboard were pleased with the results and Cowan expects to see an increase in farmer memberships this year.
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.