New weather stations help farmers forecast weather conditions
Climate change and the extreme weather patterns are posing significant challenges for farmers; drought and flooding makes growing crops of any type difficult.
For farmers like Michael Williams from Fagwr Fran East Farm in Pembrokeshire, it means he has to continually adapt his farming practices and look at new ways of working to maintain productivity of the farm, while also continuing to protect the natural environment.
At the same time, the introduction of the new Control of Agricultural Pollution Regulations 2021 means practices such as spreading slurry and other organic manures are now being more closely regulated, putting a spotlight on farmers and their ways of working.
Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Four Rivers for LIFE project is working with the Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) based at the Gelli Aur Campus near Llandeilo to install more of their Weather Stations on farms within the Cleddau river catchment, to help farmers manage how they work around predicted weather conditions..
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is supporting the LIFE project by funding the installation of six Weather Stations on farms in the Western and Eastern Cleddau river catchments this month.
The weather stations provide real time data on soil moisture, soil temperature and leaf moisture which are key to grass growth and the appropriateness of nutrient and chemical application.
They also give local weather conditions and provide a weather forecast. This information will allow the farmer to apply nutrients to the land at the right time for optimum growth and lower the risk of excess nutrients entering the river
This will mean that there is a significant network of data and information available to support decision-making, helping Michael and other farmers to adapt their work to extreme weather conditions which will protect livelihoods and the natural environment.
Michael Williams said: “As farmers we face pressures from several directions, so to have access to local real-time weather and soil condition data will help us to adapt our farming practices to suit today’s changing climate as well as helping us to be more efficient and productive in the future.”
A trial of 10 weather stations has already taken place with ARC, six in the river Tywi catchment as part of the SMS Supporting Natura 2000 Restoration project and four funded by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water within the river Usk and river Wye catchments.
These have been in place for nine months and farmers have reported a huge benefit in being able to access the data, as Alun Thomas from the Beacons Water Group explains:
"We are so pleased to have this technology as it’s enabled us to know exactly what the soil and weather conditions are like on the farm and know what conditions we'll be facing for the next couple of days.”
“This information, which is easily accessible via the app, is allowing us to apply nutrients at the best possible time, protecting the environment as well as saving us time and money.”
The data from the stations will feed into a central database to be analysed and displayed via a portal and phone app which is openly accessible to everyone. This will give an easy-to-understand traffic light system for farmers relevant to the operation they intend to carry out.
This will allow Michael Williams and farmers like him to base his nutrient and pesticide application decision-making on the information he receives.
John Owen from the Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) at Coleg Sir Gâr said: “We are looking forward to continuing this work with farmers in Pembrokeshire to support their farming practices.”
The Four Rivers for LIFE, the Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) at Coleg Sir Gâr and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water are hoping to roll this project out to farms within the Teifi river catchment by the end of the year.
To find out more and to download the App please go to Tywydd Tywi Weather App - ARC (arc-csg.cymru)