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How three agronomists look at computer, weather information services

How three agronomists look at computer, weather information services
Should cloud-based weather and information services be in your future?

Computer services that give daily weather information and estimate rainfall, plus provide other in-season crop management help, have been inexpensive or even free in the past. Now the ones you like best are charging more for their service. How much can you afford to pay for this type of help?

Three Indiana Certified Crop Advisers share their opinions on these services.

1. Ask plenty of questions first.

WOULD YOU KNOW? Some information services are accurate enough to help pinpoint hail-events like this one. If it’s two counties away from where you live, knowing it possibly hailed there might be useful.

Jesse Grogan, an agronomist with LG Seeds, Lafayette, says you need as much information as possible about what the service does before you can decide. What are you going to do with the information? Is it available by the day or immediately? Is it one of the newer services? They include Advantage Acre, Farm Logs, The Climate Corporation, Encirca and Farm Server.

Some of those are using weather collection systems and decision support software to improve planning in local on-farm operations.

Weather data that is current and predictive is used to predict best timing for important field operations, Grogan says. Decision support systems are used to variable rate apply nitrogen, predict when nitrogen deficiencies might occur, predict the impact of disease and pest development, evaluate crop stress and schedule irrigation, if you irrigate.

How much you can really afford to pay would be determined by your means to access and use the information, Grogan believes. For example, he notes that using weather and decision support software to select a prime planting window could pay for years of service.

2. The answer depends on your objectives and needs of your farming operation

“We have used weather information and rainfall data from weather stations for years in our agronomy business, and the needs vary depending on our goals,” says Greg Kneubuhler, owner of G & K Concepts, Harlan.  “Weather information may help you decide where to target field operations, determine how your nitrogen program may be impacted and play a role in timing of herbicide and fungicide applications.”

Considering all of this, Knuebuhler doesn’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. “All costs today need to be scrutinized to the operation,” he summarizes. “If the benefit outweighs the cost of the service, then you buy it.”

3. Determine how much value you place on weather information

Tom Stein, branch manager of the Boswell/Templeton branches for Ceres Solutions, says it boils down to how much you value the weather information you are receiving, or would like to receive. Are weather forecasts more accurate for those companies charging for the service than for the free ones?

“The more accurate information we have at our disposal, particularly in regards to weather and its impact on our business, the better decisions we should be able to make,” Stein says. “Some producers that are spread out over three or four counties appreciate accurate weather information as a management tool when making daily field operations decisions. It may also help them know if the back 40 got hailed on last night.”

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