Updated: Jun 18
How Ag Tech can help with unexpected climate change
It's been an unusually warm Spring! Trees are budding, birds are tweeting, and flowers are blooming! Orchard managers, however, have been quite nervous. Why? With blossom growth further along than normal, the prospect of cold weather and a freeze has been keeping growers up at night.
This dreaded nightmare all came true just a week ago, when many growers faced the dilemma of how to deal with an unusual Spring freeze. The Walla Walla & Yakima Valleys had temperatures reaching lows of 25° with temps consistently reaching 27-30°. This may sound normal to those of you that live in Eastern Washington and the surrounding areas but for those of you who had experienced the 65° weather just days before know exactly how drastic this sudden temperature change actually was. Now you can understand the panic and affect this had on growers that weren't expecting such a severe change in the weather!
Growers luckily have a tool chest full of ways to deal with a freeze, including state ag and private weather stations to detect and even predict freeze conditions, labor at the ready to activate wind machines and even irrigation systems to keep the trees warm. However, this time of year - canals feeding the irrigation systems typically haven't yet been activated. Labor is just starting to arrive for the season, and the orchards aren't yet fully staffed. In Eastern Washington, some growers even have hilly topography which leads to 'cold spots' in some areas and 'warm spots' in others. All these factors make it increasingly difficult to decipher when to turn on and off machines to prevent the freezing of their crops.
How Ag Tech could have helped:
Some of Ag Tech implications below not only help in times of freeze but are also applicable to heat flashes and warming of climates.
A simple and do-able implication of Ag tech would be to set up "nano-climate" weather stations in designated areas of your crop. Weather stations allow growers to check current and forecasted temperatures across your entire farm or even specific areas of the crop. This then allows growers to remain in the comfort and warmth of their own home or office and still notify employees on how to handle the climate changes, while also managing state of the wind, heat, & irrigation systems. Having to constantly go out and physically check on your crop gets tiring! Growers now have the ability to make informed decisions for their team members without ever having to leave home, while also enabling their workers to access weather station data on their phones while out in the field.
Having temp sensors placed in designated areas of your farm that are set to predetermined temperature ranges allow you to be notified when the temp is predicted to be too hot or cold for your particular crop. These sensors are extremely useful since they tend to be cheaper than other Ag tech, such as weather stations (but don't offer as many insights), and are primarily used to simply notify the grower when temperatures have reached undesirable levels. This then permits the grower to know when s/he can still remain in the comfort of their own home and be able to keep track of the weather fluctuations of their crop.
Another solution that Ag tech offers is being able to understand climate change through geospatial satellites that generate daily images of the earth's surface. Ag centric satellites allow you to visibly see weather, vegetation, and water trends across specific areas on your farm or orchard. This is a huge game changer in the agriculture world, enabling you to make informed decisions to farm more efficiently, promote sustainable growth, and even reduce costs (water usage, labor, and chemicals).
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