One of the Catalyst Farming businesses had an IMetos weather station installed in Spring 2020. Evidence of the benefits of this investment and the savings made on costs of inputs has inspired two more businesses in our group to follow suit and gather and use detailed weather data in 2021.
The Pessl instruments in the IMetos record rainfall, solar radiation, temperature, humidity, wind speed/direction, leaf wetness, soil temperature/moisture down to 60cm and daily evapotranspiration rates. All this information is easily accessible online and on a mobile app and is updated every hour.
Monitoring conditions that favour disease
The ability to easily monitor conditions that can increase the risk of disease outbreaks in crops is incredibly useful in tailoring spray programmes. Leaf wetness, humidity, rainfall and temperature are the main parameters followed closely to estimate the level of risk and potential severity of disease outbreaks. Disease modelling software will be used in the 2021 growing season to further aid decision-making as this will give a more calculated estimation of risk and severity.
In the 2020 growing season an average of £30/ha was saved on fungicides compared to the more traditional planned fungicide programme. This is not to say that using weather station data will allow you to cut £30/ha off your spray bill, but it will give you the confidence to reduce rates if the conditions are right.
At the site where the weather station is located, there was only 5mm of rain recorded in May 2020 plus the leaf wetness sensor stayed dry for most of that period as well. This gave us the confidence to reduce rates significantly as there was an exceptionally low risk of disease pressure in the crop. In a “normal” spring or a wet spring there may not be any reduction in sprays and could even warrant an increase in fungicide use. Ideally, with continuous monitoring, money won’t be wasted on unnecessary sprays but there will always be enough to protect against yield effecting disease.
Rolling out weather stations
Since we have proved their use and value, the group has bought two more stations and is in the process of buying five more on top of that. The price tag of a comprehensive weather station can be quite scary. However, when compared to the chemical bill for 1000ha or the potential loss of income from a small yield loss over that area, Catalyst Farming experience shows that investment can be easily justified.