Online tool helps track Ont., Que. crop stages

As farms continue to grow in size and complexity, any no-cost tool, service or practice that can free up time, decrease workload or cost, garner some piece of information leading to increased yield, or save a farmer some fuel, is usually more than worth the investment of a little time.

WeatherCentral.ca’s latest additions to a farmer’s virtual toolbox are now available from Weather INnovations Inc. (WIN), based in Chatham, Ont.

A follow-up program to the site’s popular SPRAYcast calculator and other grain tools, WeatherCentral.ca now provides growers with a more thorough assessment of the staging of their corn crop, based mainly on grower degree days (GDDs) and crop heat units (CHUs).

Participants can log in and select site-specific locations for monitoring, and receive information on a crop’s season-long growth stages as well as forecasts on drydown moisture levels during harvest.

"The idea is that when the farmer comes on to WeatherCentral.ca and registers a field and registers a planting date, his growth model is synched to his planting date at that location and the weather at that location, so that each field, each registration, can be unique," says Ian Nichols, president and business manager of WIN.

Farmers who register receive a more accurate breakdown of their field. Whether it’s planted May 7 or on April 26, the program can provide precise weather-related information, based specifically on the planting date of that particular field.

With corn planting finished in southern Ontario, farmers registering now would require some retrospective accumulation of weather data. But the WeatherCentral.ca system is available to all farmers in Ontario and Quebec, so those farmers in Eastern Ontario and Quebec are in an ideal situation to register now.

For this web-based program, Weather INnovations has partnered with Pride Seeds and Bayer CropScience, and is in the process of doing the same for soybean fields. But that is, as Nichols says, a work in progress.

"All of our services are," he says. "We never consider anything finished because we do enough applied research that there’s a new question every season, and we want to have a place where new those things are hosted."

"Reminder"

Based on the crop staging component of the system, growers can also target maturity dates for the crop, based on moisture levels.

Using the Growth Stage Calendar and accumulated weather data, a crop planted on April 15 in the Chatham region is estimated to reach VE (emergence) on May 10, VT (tassel) on July 10 and full maturity on Sept. 1. Using that date and setting moisture levels at six per cent, the drydown date prediction tool forecasts Sept. 12 as the earliest date for harvest. The system can be set with alarms and alerts, as well, enabling farmers to target their dates for various stages, including a herbicide spray application.

"The stage of development of corn is tremendously useful, and having a good idea of when it might be time to put on a fungicide treatment on the corn, and booking that ahead can be incredibly useful," says Nichols.

"The tool could give a farmer the five-day notice ahead of time, and send him a reminder that this field was planted, say, May 3 and it’s forecast to be in tassel ‘next week,’ and you ask for a reminder one week ahead."

WIN is continuing to refine existing tools available for growers, and to define new online programs. The company now offers SPRAYcast, DONcast and WHEATcast models to help cereal growers with their spray conditions, DON levels in wheat infected with fusarium head blight (FHB) and septoria and powdery mildew levels, respectively.

WIN also offers a "My Fields" dashboard component on the website, allowing growers to track their individual fields, and provide at-a-glance’ situation reports.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

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