If you live off the land, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a weather station. The weather and its variability plays a direct role in the success (or failure) of your farm. Take for example bailing hay: having a weather station will help you decide whether conditions are right to do so. Or perhaps you have temperature-sensitive crops. Picking the right time to plant your seeds could mean the difference between failure and success.
The most common reason for farm failure is crop failure due to weather-related events. While a agricultural weather station won’t eliminate this threat, it will at least help you become better prepared for it. Knowing is half the battle, so why be in the dark about something so important to your livelihood?
There’s another good reason for a weather station on your farm, too. Chances are you’re far away from the nearest official weather station, which are typically in urban areas far away. Weather is so variable that it can change over the course of a few miles, so it’s foolish to base your decisions on weather data from a station in the city. A weather station will help you manage your crops more efficiently, for example, it will provide you with the data to make better irrigation decisions, protect crops from frost damage and help you observe wind conditions before spraying.
Farms of any size benefit from weather data. For a small farm, a single station is likely sufficient. However, larger farms might want to consider several. Given that it’s necessary these days to have farms of 1,000 acres or more to generate enough income to keep them running efficiently, you’ll want to have weather data from several spots on your property.
There’s good reason for this, too. It’s entirely possible that weather conditions like temperature and humidity may vary over very small distances, and may be important in making decisions on whether to spray pesticides, lay manure and perform other weather-dependent farm maintenance.
What Weather Station Features Are Most Valuable on a Farm?
Look for stations with the typical suite of weather instruments: of those, temperature, humidity, and rainfall are the most useful. Depending on your farm’s setup, a station with even more functionality might be worthwhile. A soil moisture sensor is useful to ensure that farmland is receiving adequate irrigation; leaf moisture sensors could let you know the health of fruit-bearing trees, and UV and solar radiation sensors can tell you if crops are receiving enough light.
Which one you pick is entirely up to you. However, we recommend that you purchase a station that gives you the option for expansion as your farm grows. Agricultural weather stations from Davis Instruments have this capability but do keep in mind that they are more expensive than your traditional low-end personal weather station, but the quality and accuracy you'll receive from a Davis station is unmatched.
How Should I Use the Data from My Weather Station?
Personal weather stations give you an up-to-the-minute glimpse at the weather, but the best way to use this data is to look for patterns over time. Take for example crop planting. If they’re susceptible to frost, you’re certainly not going to want to plant crops when the risk of frost and freeze is still high. By using archived weather station data over a period of time, you’ll be able to make a better decision on when is best to plant those crops and irrigate them.
Invest in stations with good software that allows you to analyze your weather data effectively: such functionality is available on many mid and high-end stations. It might also be a good idea to research your local climate, so you’re able to make more educated decisions based on the data you see.
The Importance of the Forecast
Yes, we’ve stressed the need for farmers to own a weather station, but it would be irresponsible not to mention the importance of also staying on top of weather forecasts. A personal weather station is not going to give you warning of crop-damaging hail or a crippling frost. Meteorologists are trained to predict these events and can give you days to prepare rather than minutes or hours.
Your weather station is still useful here, for example, on a cold night when a hard freeze is predicted, you can use the station to monitor the actual temperature, and adjust your mitigation efforts to minimize loss.
Weather Affects Your Business
Weather plays a huge role in your livelihood as a farmer. One miscalculation could mean crop failure. With overhead costs so high these days, there is very little room for error. It’s for this reason why we highly recommend all farmers invest in a personal weather station.
While you won’t be able to stop severe weather events, you’ll at least be armed with hyperlocal weather data to understand better how you might be affected, and how you should react. It might be a several hundred (if not several thousand in some cases) dollar investment, but we think it is a wise one.