Turn Weather Data into Profitable In-Season Decisions

May 29, 2019

Ag Weather Data

You can’t fight Mother Nature. But with the right weather and precipitation data flowing directly into your farm management software, maybe you don’t have to.

Whether you have too little or too much, water plays a key role in determining the success of each crop year. Farmers today need a tool that helps them walk the line between wasting inputs in a year with too much or too little water, and missing additional yield potential when precipitation levels are at or just above 30-year averages.

Soil moisture and historic precipitation levels are two great datasets that help determine water-driven yield potential. By combining this information with actual rainfall, farmers can make quick in-season decisions that will help make the most of very drop.

Let’s take a deeper look into how farmers can use weather data — including soil moisture data, historic precipitation levels, and actual in-season precipitation — to make data-driven in-season decisions to match yield goals to available moisture. The end result? Optimizing water and nutrient-use efficiency, as well as farm profits.

Why does weather data matter?

As farmers move further and further into precision management, they need to be able to identify and target areas of their fields that may be underperforming. This is where understanding water becomes very helpful.

There are two sources of water, soil water and precipitation, which are equally important in determining crop yields. Yet, farmers typically put too high an emphasis on precipitation and don’t pay enough attention to the moisture already present in the soil.

Consider that it takes four inches of water to just grow the plant, or closer to six inches for corn. Every inch above that goes toward adding bushels, and how many depends on a number of other factors, such as crop type and soil texture. However, a crucial determining factor is also how carefully the farmer is monitoring the crop and soil moisture.

The goal, here, is for farmers to identify yield opportunities and predict yield potential weeks before harvest, which allows them to ‘pull triggers’ — or take action such as adding inputs or reducing fungicide applications — during the season that can result in tremendous benefits to ROI.

Where water-driven yield potential really gets exciting is when it intersects with variable-rate precision management. Many farmers are beginning to manage different parts of fields differently based on yield potentials supported by soil samples, tissue analysis and VR nutrition, fungicide, etc. As precision management becomes the new norm, water-driven yield potential will continue to play a vital role in the widespread adoption of precision management strategies.

How do I get started?

  • Determine historic rainfall amounts for the growing season.
  • Determine crop-available water in the soil.
  • Calculate water-driven yield potential: Moisture Driven Yield Potential = Soil Moisture + Historic In-season Precipitation = Total Potential Moisture minus 4” for the plant (6” for corn) = X leftover to make bushels depending on crop, soil texture and grower’s interest and ability to closely monitor crop.
  • Measure rainfall with a rain gauge or start playing with weather stations – they’re cheap, reliable and telematics is not the problem it used to be. Larger farms may need several stations. Trimble Ag Software’s Ag Premium Weather provides accumulated rainfall plus the historical average.
  • Adjust inputs based on how well water-driven yield potential is tracking to actual precipitation.

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