Spotlight on Science - Synergising weather and agronomy

Peter Palmerin Science

Turf management and the weather are inexplicably linked. Temperature, light, moisture, evapotranspiration and humidity play a massive role in grass and fungal disease growth and therefore directly impact on the way we manage our grass.

Mark Hunt's expertise has influenced many turf care professionals approaches to nutrition and disease management. Here, Mark explores the intrinsic relationship between turf management and weather, sharing his knowledge and understanding of Davis weather stations, and their usefulness to the turf manager.

Measuring climatic data is just one function of a weather station. With the array of sensors available to connect to a Davis Vantage Pro Weather Station (450 and counting), modern weather stations can do a lot more than just 'measure the weather'.

In addition, converting that data into agronomic parameters is the next step and allows the end-user to not only make better-informed decisions but also communicate these to management and members alike.

Weather Station - key considerations

Before I get into how we can use the data from a Davis Weather Station, it is worth discussing some of the key considerations when you are looking to purchase and use one ;

1. Where should you locate your weather station and how do you connect to it?

Where you locate your weather station and how do you 'connect' to it are perhaps the most important decisions you need to make. With Davis, there are two options;

a) Wireless connection - In this case, you have a Weatherlink Live hub in your office which connects to your WiFi network and then communicates with the Vantage Pro weather station. This needs to be situated within 300m line of sight of the Weatherlink Live hub.

b) Cellular connection - Sometimes it isn't practically possible to connect to a WiFi network and / or site a weather station within 300m. Fortunately there is a solution. A cellular Gateway connects to the mobile network on your site and effectively allows you to site your weather station wherever you want on your site provided you have 3G, 4G, etc coverage.

In both connections scenarios, the data is then streamed to the cloud and picked up on a pc at weatherlink.com or via the Weatherlink app on a smart phone or tablet.

2. Do you want to measure different areas across your site?

Modern technology now allows you to fit not just a Davis weather station, but additional satellite systems called EnviroMonitor nodes that can be equipped with up to 4 sensors. The EM nodes communicate with each other and with the weather station and send the data back. You can fit up to 25 EM nodes to one weather station, and if the two are fitted with long range aerials, they can be up to 2.5km away from each other!

What do you want to measure?

For example, if you are looking to measure Evapotranspiration (E.T.), you need to ensure the model comes fitted with a solar radiation sensor and calculates E.T.

Are leaf moisture levels (dew formation) and soil temperature important to you on your site ? - If yes, then you'll need to factor in an extra transmitter and a leaf moisture and soil temperature sensor into the installation and purchase equation.

Using weather station data in turfgrass management decisions and to communicate more effectively….

Rainfall intensity

Nowadays, it isn't just how much rain that falls, it is the intensity of the rainfall that has implications for flooding, overwhelming rootzone drainage and washing out bunkers. Rainfall intensity greater than 50mm per hour is classified as violent.

Growth patterns

Converting minimum and maximum air temperature into plant growth models such as Growth-degree-days (GDD) and Growth Potential (G.P) for your site can help in determining PGR, fertiliser and pesticide applications (starting dates and duration). In addition, by monitoring daily Growth Potential, you can also highlight for example, how many good growth days you have had so far this spring or why aerating in September is better than October / November.

Evapotranspiration

Irrigation efficiency is more and more critical, both in terms of the increasing frequency of dry summers and record heat, but also the requirement to use the water available in the most efficient manner. Irrigating without understanding how much of that water is being lost from the grass plant and soil surface by evaporation (E.T), at what rate and how it varies across a day is an uninformed process.

Useful sensors

Some of the most useful sensor types you can fit to a Davis Vantage Pro weather station for turf grass management

6420 - Leaf moisture - Generates excellent data for disease monitoring.
6470 - Soil temperature - Useful for timing overseeding operations and monitoring plant growth.
Apogee SQ 212 - PAR Light - Provides a good indication of light availability on your site year-on-year and how it affects grass and different grass species growth.
Terros 12 - Soil moisture, temperature and salinity - This cabled sensor is placed horizontally and has a sensing volume of 1010 ml of soil surrounding the sensor.

Summary

A Davis Vantage Pro weather station does far more than just measure the weather. It can help make turfgrass management decisions easier, optimise irrigation strategy and, above all, make communicating the effects of the weather on your site a more efficient process.

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