Weather stations installed on Welsh farms to improve nutrient application

A joint venture between Natural Resources Wales and the Agricultural Research Centre has seen sophisticated weather stations installed on farms within the River Cleddau catchment in Pembrokeshire, to help farmers apply chemicals and nutrients at the optimum time and lessen negative environmental effects. 

The weather stations provide soil moisture and soil temperature readings, as well as leaf moisture data in real time.

They also give a weather forecast so that, when all of the data is viewed via a mobile app, farmers receive an accurate insight into growing conditions and are able to apply nutrients and chemicals at the optimum time, minimising the risk of excess product getting into watercourses. 

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The launch comes at a time when the application of slurry and organic manures is being closely monitored after the Welsh government announced changes to nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) legislation, which saw the introduction of a 170kg/ha nitrogen limit imposed on Welsh farms from 1 April this year.

Welsh farmer Michael Williams, from Fagwr Fran East Farm in Pembrokeshire, said: “As farmers we face pressures from several directions, so to have access to local real-time weather and soil condition data helps 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.”

So far, a nine-month trial has taken place using 10 of the weather stations on farms within the river Tywi, Usk and Wye catchments, and the data has been used by farmers when applying nutrients and pesticides. The new installations will place a further six weather stations near the River Cleddau. 

Alun Thomas from Beacons Water Group said: “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 is allowing us to apply nutrients at the best possible time, protecting the environment as well as saving us time and money.”

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