Every business owner should better understand and monitor external factors that influence the success or failure of their business. So too, farmers need to understand the influences on their business, whether it be seed costs, infrastructure bottlenecks, market prices or load shedding, impacting the success of their crop yield and consequent profit margins.
Marius Boshoff, Managing Director of Villa Crop Protection, a WinField United South Africa (WUSA) company, highlights that “monitoring and understanding day-to-day weather and short-term climate variability is vital for farmers to optimise resource use, maximise crop yields and reduce the risks associated with the weather by enabling preventative or proactive actions required to achieve enhanced success”.
Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, noted in his 2023 midterm budget speech that “climate change poses considerable risks and constraints to sustainable economic growth in South Africa, with recent events showing that extreme weather events, such as floods, heat waves and drought, are occurring more often”.
WUSA-owned Metos® SA, in collaboration with Pessl Instruments and TerraClim, undertook the Eureka Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) project in 2021 to provide farmers with climate-smart tools to mitigate the risks of climate change.
Backed by intergovernmental funding body Eureka and public funding agencies, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency, this private public partnership (PPP) has funded the installation of over 200 weather stations in the Western Cape to create a dense weather station network to provide more accurate climate and terrain maps.
The 100th installation took place in Franschhoek on 7 April 2022. Coenraad Groenewald (Metos® SA), Marius Boshoff (Villa Crop Protection), Garth Stephenson (Centre for Geographical Analysis), Ebené Oranje-Swarts (Metos® SA), Gabrielle Redelinghuys (WinField United SA), and Juan du Plessis (Centre for Geographical Analysis).
The 200th installation took place in De Doorns on 21 October 2022. Gabrielle Redelinghuys (WinField United SA), Coenraad Groenewald (Metos® SA), and Ebené Oranje-Swarts (Metos® SA).
Carina Olivier, Marketing Portfolio Lead: Ag-Tech and Services at WUSA, says that the stations provide access to live, real-time data and hyper-localised weather forecasts for up to seven days. Knowing what weather conditions to expect in the short term provides valuable, actionable insights. For example, with over 80 disease models on 40 crops and optimal spray windows, producers can better protect their crops.
By integrating and modelling weather data over the longer term, TerraClim assists growers to identify the crop and cultivar best suited to a location. This is critical for the sustainability of agriculture as certain crops or cultivars may no longer be viable in regions where they once thrived. Mapping extremities, such as increased rainfall, colder winters and hotter summers in certain regions, also provide essential information for future crop planting and crop protection decisions.
Marius Boshoff points to the strategic importance of climate modelling, explaining that “it is well documented from various sources that La Niña weather patterns, with their above-average rainfall, are expected to end in October 2023, with El Niño bringing drier conditions into 2024, which will directly impact soil moisture”. Under the PPP, participating farmers are granted free access to a two-year hyper-localised weather forecasting licence and work planning tools, as well as a two-year disease model licence on the FieldClimate App. Other industry stakeholders also have access to the platform, although an annual licence fee is payable.
Olivier concluded, “gathering accurate data through a network of strategically-placed weather stations and collating the data will assist to mitigate the risk of climate change and help prepare for the fast-changing future”.
For more information, contact Gabrielle Redelinghuys at GRedelinghuys@WinFieldUnited.co.za.
About WinField SA
WinField United South Africa (WUSA) provides holistic agricultural solutions to the South African industry. WUSA’s comprehensive portfolio offers experienced crop adviser teams, technical support specialists, research and innovation facilities, agricultural consultancy services, and national distribution. A strong emphasis is placed on growers who are ultimately responsible for feeding the global and local population.
WUSA was formed from the 2021 merger of two local companies, Villa Crop Protection and InteliGro Group, with WinField United, the crop protection business of the US Land O’Lakes Group.
Eureka is the world’s biggest public network for international cooperation in R&D and innovation. Present in over 45 countries, Eureka supports gaining access to new markets by providing tools and advice for expansion.
About Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
TIA is a South African national public entity that serves as the key institutional intervention to bridge the innovation chasm between research and development from higher education institutions, science councils, public entities and the private sector, and commercialisation.
Austria-based, Pessl Instruments, offers tools for informed decision-making. A complete range of wireless, solar-powered monitoring systems under the Metos® brand, and an online platform called FieldClimate, are applicable in all climate zones and can be used in various industries and for various purposes – from agriculture to research, hydrology, meteorology, flood warning and more. Pessl currently has weather stations installed in over 85 countries, with one million sensors assisting over 40 000 users.
About Metos® SA
Owned by WUSA, Metos® SA is the exclusive distributor of Pessl Instruments weather monitoring solutions. Metos® SA solutions include weather stations to provide access to live, real-time weather data, hyper-localised weather forecasting over 80 disease models on 40 crops, insect monitoring equipment and other in-field decision-making tools, such as daily ET0 for irrigation management and optimal spray windows and Delta-T for the application of crop protection products.
TerraClim is a wine industry flagship climate change project since 2019, hosted at Stellenbosch University, funded by Winetech, founded and co-founded on an extensive amount of research by Dr Tara Southey and Prof Adriaan van Niekerk, respectively. TerraClim provides the South African agricultural sector with integrated data resources to give access to detailed climate and terrain information that will assist to understand and then navigate the increase in seasonal changes at the farm and field level.