Hyperlocal weather forecast for better farming

From sowing to harvest, weather is one of the key factors for a successful yield. Weather forecast is an essential tool for growers who want to ensure healthy and productive crops. 

Weather conditions affect crops from seed to fruit and should influence the decisions growers make in the field to maximize quality and yield. Irrigation, pest and disease management, and other aspects can be optimized if planned accordingly. Weather conditions can also dictate how and when field work can be done, and it can change (or even prevent) harvesting.

In this article, we are going to discuss the important weather considerations during the growing season and describe how technological advancements allow farmers to derive weather-wise plans and stay up-to-date with weather predictions like never before.

Temperature considerations for planting and harvesting

Plant development is strongly influenced by ambient temperature exposure. Generally speaking, warmer days advance the growth of plants while cooler days stunt growth. The accumulated degrees above a threshold (the base temperature) are referred to as the growing degree days (GDD). This is used to estimate the growth of certain plants during the growing season. The method is considered a more accurate estimation of the growth stage for plants compared to the age of plants. Tracking the GDD can help growers with deciding on the timing for fertilization and harvesting.

On the other hand, in some plants, winter dormancy release depends on having a sufficient number of accumulated chill hours, as in apples or grapes. If the temperature does not drop low enough, the release from dormancy and subsequent plant flowering may become weak and uneven. In the absence of optimal conditions, the grower needs to apply chemicals to “wake” the plants and induce a uniform flowering.

When sowing, several questions need to be addressed. Has there been enough water accumulation in the soil for seeds to sprout and develop? Are the days following the sowing going to have enough sunlight? Is there a danger of frost? Also, in certain crops, the temperature at the time of the harvest is important. For example, the sugar content and composition of wine grapes is more stable at lower temperatures so grapes are often harvested in cooler times of the day. 

Accurate long and short-term weather forecasting is a crucial tool for growers when planting and harvesting timing needs to be planned ahead. 

Irrigation planning

Once the field is sowed, weather forecasting helps growers optimize growth conditions. Weather forecasting can help with planning efficient irrigation schedules that save water and reduce irrigation dependency. Knowledge of hot dry days can be anticipated in advance to allow effective irrigation that prevents plant stress. Other factors such as temperature, humidity, sunlight intensity, and wind are important as well, as water loss from the evaporation from plants and soil (known as evapotranspiration) is affected by these factors. The large amount of the variables that can change, and the high frequency of their change, makes planning efficient irrigation schedules complex. Keeping track of rain and evapotranspiration through the aid of technology provides an easy and practical way to develop precise irrigation plans that continuously update as weather conditions change.

Pest and disease management

Not only do weather conditions dictate plant behavior and development, but weather conditions also strongly influence the emergence and development of pests and diseases such as the migration of insects, egg hatching, fungal spore development, sexual maturity, etc. 

Combining a weather forecast with the knowledge of the evolution of specific pests or diseases brings a new level of sophistication to pest and disease management. Weather predictions and GDD are used to predict when pest emergence is likely to occur. Growers then know when to look for pests and how to optimally time the application of preventative measures and pesticides. For example, the adult moths of the European Corn Borer typically start to appear and mate around spring, when the weather starts to get warmer. The eggs are laid on the underside of host plants, and within several days, they hatch as larvae and start feeding. By calculating the GDD, a grower can predict moth emergence and apply preventative measures when the pest is most vulnerable (and before damage has been done).

Smart weather-based planning can also prevent wasteful applications of pesticides and fertilizer. A chemical pesticide or fertilizer applied right before rain can be washed away and will have little or no effect. Pesticide applications on windy days are also situations to avoid, as the wind can have an adverse effect on the dispersal of pesticides and even cause damage in nearby fields due to the drift. Spraying should be avoided when wind speed is above 15 km/h. 

Temperature should also be taken into consideration when deciding when to spray because of several factors such as the potential for droplet evaporation, risk of phytotoxicity and more. In general, spraying pesticides should be avoided if temperatures are above 30 degree Celsius. 

Relative humidity in the air is another important factor that influences the evaporation of droplets. Spraying should be avoided when humidity is low.

Knowing the right days to apply pesticides and fertilizer may make a difference between a healthy field and an unhealthy one.

Weather forecasting

Several methods for weather forecasting are used by growers. These include large, regional weather stations that are based on a great deal of information and provide granular, low-resolution information to on-premise weather stations that are more area precise, but are relatively expensive and require installation and maintenance. 

Better, faster computers and finer measurement tools have made meteorological modeling precise and weather forecasting more reliable than ever before. Observations such as temperature, humidity, and wind characteristics are gathered from different sources like weather stations, weather radars, and aircrafts, which is then fed into computers to produce weather forecast simulations. The more accurate and abundant the input is, the more precise and localized the forecasts are. The increasing power of computers allows for frequent forecast refinement that result in high-resolution predictions in space and time. 

Such technological advancements make it possible to provide growers with high-resolution forecasts in an affordable way, even in rural, low-income nations that do not have access to weather measurement devices or affordable local weather stations. These new methods are important because they can predict the microclimate at the level of the field, allowing growers to prepare and plan ahead.

Agrio helps you to plan ahead

Combining weather forecasts and agricultural knowledge can have powerful outcomes. Agrio makes precise, hyper-local weather forecasts easily available to all growers. Our prediction models combine weather measurements and observations from different sources. These state-of-the-art weather prediction models provide our growers an hourly hyper-local weather forecast designated specifically to their unique area anywhere in the world; the forecast is provided at a 3km resolution so it is specific to their fields. 

precise, hyper-local weather forecasts easily available to all growers

By leveraging technological advancements, we help growers abandon cumbersome excel sheets and instead rely on our algorithms to do the tracking for them. 

Agrio provides several dedicated features that allow growers to:

  • Optimize spraying times for safety and efficiency
  • Track GDD for pest and disease management optimization

This allows growers to plan an efficient growing season and spraying schedule, save money, and grow stronger and healthier plants. We look forward to seeing you leverage this technology for smart and effective weather interventions in your field. 

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

2 Big Reasons to Implement Crop Rotation in Your Next Growing Season

Crop rotation is the practice of growing different crops in a sequence on the same field and it has been used as an important tool to improve farming since the early days of agriculture. In this practice, each crop serves a different purpose in the order of rotation. The crops are categorized into two main groups: Feeder crops and cover crops. Feeder crops deplete the soil nutrients, whereas cover crops are used to restore the soil, green manure and prevention of erosion. 

The main benefits of crop rotation are disease and pest management and preservation and restoration of soil health. Though, there are additional benefits such as reduced reliance on chemicals and cattle grazing that will not be discussed in this scope.

Feeder crops

Chenopodiaceae (e.g. spinach, beetroot)
Brassicas (e.g. broccoli, cabbage)
Cucurbits (e.g. cucumber, melon)
Solanaceae (e.g. tomato, potato)
Alliums (e.g. onion, leek)
Corn

Cover crops

Legumes (e.g. alfalfa, beans)
Grasses (e.g. sorghum, oats)

Managing Pests and Diseases with Crop Rotation

Pests and diseases are one of the biggest challenges to growers worldwide. The good news is that crop rotation can help combat pests and diseases by interrupting life cycles and altering pest habitats.

The spread of pests and diseases can be inhibited by understanding their life cycle. Fungi, bacteria, insects, nematodes and even viruses have specific hosts that can be removed and habitats that can be made less favourable to them. This can help disrupt and reduce the population of pests and diseases. 

For example, if a potato field has a Colorado Potato Beetle infestation, alfalfa can be planted in the following season to reduce pest pressure. What would planting alfalfa in this case achieve? Well, during the growing phase, the beetle will lay its eggs in the field. The eggs would hatch to alfalfa plants, which are not viable hosts for the beetle. This means that the larvae population will be greatly reduced because of its lack of mobility (in the larvae stage the pest doesn’t have wings). By altering the beetle’s habitat, and interrupting its life cycle, prevention of a buildup of the beetle’s population for the next planting season is achieved.

If the grower were to grow potatoes in neighboring fields, it would reduce the effectiveness of using alfalfa for crop rotation because the potatoes would act as a temporary host for the beetle. Beetles can migrate back to the main field the following season when the potato crop is planted again. 

While the alfalfa is grown in the field as a cover crop, weeds from the solanaceous family (such as nightshade) may host the beetle. Thus, weeds can also function as potential transitional hosts and act as temporary hosts for the beetle. Such challenges among others can hinder the effectiveness of the crop rotation.

Growers can achieve higher yields by having a good understanding of the biology of pests and diseases. Does the pest or disease have a wide or short-range of hosts? How long can the pest or disease survive without a host? How mobile is it? These and other questions need to be addressed when planning crop rotation for pest and disease management. Additionally, by relying less on conventional chemicals for pest management, there is less chance of the pests and diseases developing resistance which leads to a higher success rate for eradicating the problem. 

Preserving and Building Soil Quality

While crop rotation implications on plant protection is an important consideration for its own sake, growers need to pay attention to soil quality. Years and years of intensive single crop farming can exhaust the soil, deplete its nutrients and damage the microorganism ecology. This can reduce  yields, increase the need for fertilizers, and increase soil pathogens that damage the plants. How can crop rotation help build good soil health?

Some crops are known to be beneficial for soil health; these are known as cover crops. Cover crops promote soil health and structure, return nutrients to soil and contribute to the soil ecology. 

Potato is an example of an exhaustive crop, which means that soil’s nutrients can be depleted after growing potatoes consecutively. Growers can prevent exhaustive crops from depleting soil by planting cover crops. In this case a legume such as alfalfa.

Why legumes? Legumes are known to be restorative crops. Legumes have symbiotic bacteria in their root system that capture atmospheric nitrogen and return it to the soil in a form that is available to the plant. Legumes also have a deep taproot which is used to recycle nutrients that are deeper in the ground. 

Grasses can be used as cover crops as well. Grasses have wide fibrous root systems that secrete substances into the soil and promote soil aggregation. This process stabilizes the soil and improves aeration. Their roots also decompose slowly and act as a source of slow-releasing nutrition.

What makes cover crops even more interesting is the fact that they can be used as green manure. At the end of the season cover crops can be cut up or left to decompose in the soil. Doing so adds rich organic substance to the soil and promotes soil health. However, the usage of green manure should be planned carefully as the decomposing plant material may be a source of inoculation and spread of pathogens.

Using legumes, grass or even leaving the soil fallow for some period can greatly benefit soil health. It can return nutrients, promote soil microorganisms, and better the soil structure.

Planning out a crop rotation

Poor yield, heavy fertilizer reliance and high pest and disease pressure should incentivise growers to make plans for crop rotation.

Planning of the crop rotation can be divided into several steps:

  1. Deciding which cover crops are available to be used based on location and climate, local market trends, and the season of the available field.
  1. Deciding when to plant the cover crops. Ask yourself how often you can afford to rotate and what type of rotation. Are you going to plant only in the off-season, or have several consecutive seasons of cover crops.
  1. Deciding which cover crops to use: legumes or grasses. Both legume and grass have relatively low nutrient demands and can be used as green manure. Other considerations that should be taken into account include their main benefits:

Legume benefits:

  • Able to capture atmospheric nitrogen(N)
  • Recycles nutrients from deeper soil

Grass benefits:

  • Promotes soil aggregation and aeration
  • Acts as a source for the slow release of organic material

What Else?

The root systems of cover crops hold the soil together and stabilize its structure which prevents strong rain and storms from causing soil erosion. Cover crops promote a diverse field that can combat weeds and might even suppress weed growth. In addition, rotating with a crop allows for easy weed control and gives growers an opportunity to reduce the build up of weeds.

When used correctly, crop rotation can be an effective and powerful tool to add to crop management. Its benefits can be wide and long lasting for managing pests and diseases by interrupting life cycles and altering habitats, preserving and promoting soil health and stability, and enriching the microorganism ecology of the soil.

We can help growers to be better, greener and more effective. 

  • Our platform helps growers keep records of the crops in their fields.
  • Our database can help growers plan a crop rotation by providing a historical account of pests and diseases in the region.
  • Our resource library provides detailed information on the life cycle and range of hosts for pests and diseases in accordance with specific crops and locations.
  • Our system generates end of season crop cover recommendations.

We are looking forward to seeing you apply this information to build a smart, effective crop rotation in your field. In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

Monitoring Crops and Mapping Chlorophyll Content Remotely

The ability to monitor crop progress and spot problems in the field before symptoms are apparent is crucial for a successful harvest. In this article, we want to discuss how mapping the spatial variability of leaf chlorophyll content (LCC) within fields can help in spotting health problems and differing quantities of nitrogen fertilizer application.

The leaf chlorophyll content is an important indicator of plant health, photosynthetic potential, and nutritional state. Although extraction analysis by field sampling provides an accurate estimation of LCC status, such methods are not practical. Non-destructive remote sensing measurement offers an affordable, and frequent way for assessing the LCC of plants over fields in high resolution.

The leaf nitrogen content is strongly correlated with chlorophyll content. The optimum rate and application timing of nitrogen fertilizer is crucial in achieving a high yield. Monitoring the chlorophyll index allows variable-rate fertilizer application and site-specific crop management.

Weather and soil conditions are major factors in the rate at which nitrogen is escaping the soil system to the atmosphere, and therefore the fertilization needs cannot be easily predicted. New ways to observe fields can reduce the grower guesswork when mid-season fertilizer application decisions are made, it is an important decision since the costs of nitrogen can make the difference between a profitable season to an unfavorable one.

Why the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is not suitable for this task? NDVI shows a low correlation with the chlorophyll content, it is more severe in advanced growth stages when the NDVI becomes saturated. This saturation is due to the increase in the leaf area, and the density of the canopy structure. In this stage, there is a need to monitor an index that is highly correlated with the leaf chlorophyll content and less sensitive to the leaf and canopy structure.

Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor crops and the chlorophyll index of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available. 


Monitoring crop condition - evolution of chlorophyll content in the growing season
Monitoring crop condition – the evolution of chlorophyll content in the growing season


We expect a scan to be available every few days, but when the sky is cloudy a clear shot of the field is not possible and we need to wait for the next time that the satellite is passing above your field.

Crop problems identified early to prevent losses

We do the image analysis and alert you when we find anomalies

Take a big leap forward in your farming practices by engaging with the Agrio remote sensing technology. We are looking forward to helping you with that.

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

Precision agriculture made easy

The ability to monitor crop progress and spot problems in the field before symptoms are apparent is crucial for a successful harvest. Exciting advancements in technology allow us to capture images of farms around the world with the aid of satellites, thus making monitoring simple and affordable.

The most popular vegetation index that is being used by farmers is NDVI, it is an indicator of the health of the plant based on a reflection of different light waves.

Farmers that are using Agrio can monitor the NDVI index of their fields in a very simple way. All that is needed is to define the field location by drawing a polygon that represents the field boundary. Once this is done we are kicking in to do constant monitoring for you, and notify you when a new scan is available. We expect a scan to be available every few days, but when the sky is cloudy, and a clear shot of the field is not possible we need to wait for the next time that the satellite is passing above your field. Our algorithms identify the clouds in the sky automatically and we present filtered images that are clean from artifacts.

Agrio users can expect to receive the following images:

We do the image analysis and alert you when we find anomalies.

To give you some intuition on the process lets refer to the figure above. Regions in which the vegetation is lower compared to other parts in the field might indicate that there is a problem, scouting might be needed in these field regions to further investigate the cause. Use the Agrio smartphone application to upload images of the symptoms you find during your tour. It will help us to give a more precise recommendation and also improve our capabilities to identify the exact problems directly from the satellite images as we go along.

Moreover, the NDVI index allows us to estimate if the crop is developing in a good phase. If the index is low in the middle of the season, there is probably a problem that requires investigation, like nutrient deficiency for example.

We save you time by optimizing your scouting routes! We are your eyes in the sky.

Take a big leap forward in your farming practices by engaging with the Agrio remote sensing technology. We are looking forward to helping you with that.

In the meantime, as always, we wish you an abundant harvest.

Artificial Intelligence for Integrated Pest Management

Modern plant protection practices implemented in well-supported farms result in considerable yield gains. Unfortunately, such practices are not widely adopted and are still challenging to enact because farmers lack the required support and knowledge.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is the approach of combining methods that work better together than separately. It allows diseases and pests to be controlled through managing the ecosystem, which results in long-term pest control that is less risky to farmers and the environment. With IPM, monitoring crops and correctly identifying pests demands well-trained experts. The decision to choose one treatment over another is based on a set of factors that include the identity of the pest, the quantity of crops affected, and the environment. If treatment is to be applied it should be scheduled to the timing that makes the most economical sense.

Agrio is a digital solution that leverages artificial intelligence technology to close the gap in farmer-received support. Agrio facilitates modern plant protection adaptation and is easy to use, affordable, and scalable. We simplify integrated pest management implementation by providing the following benefits to our users:

Easy method for scouting fields and sharing findings with coworkers

We offer a typing-free reporting system to provide accurate descriptions of pest and disease pressure in fields. The digital reports are automatically augmented with insights derived by our artificial intelligence algorithms. During the scouting process, location-based tasks are shared with coworkers to make the treatment procedure more efficient and precise.

Addressing challenges in diagnosis for optimal treatment

Farmers and inspectors can find it challenging to identify the correct pathogens, as well as to decide the economical threshold that requires a treatment program. Our solution enables users to rely on well-trained artificial intelligence algorithms to identify problems with their crops and decide on treatment necessity. If treatment is deemed required, the options are numerous and there is no effective way to follow a protocol which is with the lowest environmental and economic risk. Our decision support system enables farmers and inspectors to follow a consistent scientific regime which optimizes the pest management process.

Predicting problems early

Timing is crucial when it comes to protecting crops and an effective IPM program could benefit from farmers knowing what to expect before it infects their fields. Prevention is most often the best treatment option. In more extreme epidemics, organizations are left unprepared when a pest or a disease invades a new territory. Agrio monitors global spread and provides users with pest and disease alerts that allow them to minimize surprises during growing seasons.

Supervising large-scale operations

IPM programs take into account numerous observations made by inspectors. By deploying their observations in real-time, and facilitating communication between coworkers, our solution considerably reduces the management resources that are required to brief inspectors, coordinate plant protection operations, and monitor the progress of outbreaks.

We developed Workgroup in order to help farming groups overcome the above challenges. Workgroup is an integrated pest management tool for farming organizations; it is an internal operations tool for managing large scale crop protection endeavors.  Workgroup is customizable and buildable; the protocols and agriculture inputs can be predetermined and displayed to users within their secure channel. Organized data from the Workgroup is displayed in a dashboard for the luxury of crop protection supervision from the office or home. The dashboard arranges information for supervisors who want more thorough management for the crop protection activities within their organizations. Workgroup allows farming organizations to manage the plant protection activities on a large scale.