A NSW Government website

Benefits of on-farm weather stations on orchards in NSW

Key points

  • Local weather stations provide insights into the local climate data that can be used to accurately log spray records and minimize spray drift
  • Chill portions accumulation can be calculated more accurately
  • Rainfall data is an excellent tool growers can use to improve their irrigation efficiency and decision making

Atmos 41 weather station in orchard

Horticulture producers across NSW have decided to invest in their own on-farm weather stations. Commonly, producers are getting their current weather information from services such as the Bureau of meteorology and Elders Weather, however the nearest weather station to a particular property may be more than 30km away meaning that the data that producers are obtaining is not accurate for their property. The addition of these on-farm weather stations have enabled producers to access up to date and current climatic conditions relevant to them, allowing them to better manage their systems.

Orchards across the growing regions have started to invest in weather stations that provide them with information relevant to their property, allowing them to make better, more informed management decisions.

Understanding the climate and the impacts it has on production is crucial for growers to be able to produce high quality yields. Deploying a weather station on farm allows for better understand of the different climatic thresholds experienced.

Weather stations range from very basic, measuring temperature and humidity, to complex research grade weather stations that measure up to 12 different data sets, and are often housed in an all-in-one sensor suite that operates on battery or solar power and can run on a range of different networks or satellites.

Weather stations can measure:

Weather stations can help with:

  • Solar radiation
  • Precipitation
  • Air temperature
  • Barometric (air) pressure
  • Vapor pressure
  • Relative humidity
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Maximum wind gust
  • Lightning strikes
  • Lightning distance
  • Tilt
  • Irrigation scheduling
  • Degree Day models
    • Chilling hours
    • Growing Degree Hours
  • Freeze protection

Air temperature and relative humidity are key components in calculating vapor pressure deficit (VPD), or how dry the air is given temperature and humidity. In turn, VPD will determine the level of evapotranspiration (ET), which is water loss from plants and soil. For this reason, ET is an accurate means of determining irrigation needs.

Wind can also affect ET, and thus plant water use, by moving humid air away from the plant canopy or soil. Wind reduces the boundary layer resistance for water movement from the crop or soil to the air. More air movement results in greater evaporation and transpiration.

Rainfall volume is also important for scheduling irrigation. The actual volume, and not just the occurrence of rain, is important for ensuring that the soil is brought back to the optimal moisture range.

Having real time weather data available will allow growers to make more precise management decisions such as spray timings, accumulation of chill portions and trigger points for irrigation. Some growers are currently using weather stations at airports and research stations 15-20km away from orchards and using this data to record spray conditions. Conditions experienced at these areas are often different at growers orchards, resulting in inaccurate data. For example at the NSW DPI Climate Smart Pilots demonstration site, the Atmos41 weather station deployed on farm was recording  required chill accumulation 2 weeks later than the previously used weather station at the airport.

Table showing the different dates of chill portions in different locations

“Having the weather station on farm allows me to look at the conditions on my phone in real time making it easier to record things like spraying”, Orange Apple and Cherry Grower, NSW.

Weather stations can also provide greater insights into when to deploy protective sprays such as sunscreen in apples. When temperatures increase above 30oC growers may apply protective sunscreen to crops to ensure protection against heat induced sunburn. If growers use a weather station, they can get more accurate trigger points, resulting in better protection for their crop.

Automatic Weather Stations can also measure rainfall, which can reduce the need for the grower to go out and empty the gauge after weather events. This allows for very accurate measuring and may be used in conjunction with soil moisture probes to view water management digitally.

“I can compare my rainfall data for different blocks using my weather station. Using this information I can then plan my irrigation per block and become more water efficient” Sydney Basin Apple Grower, NSW.

Weather stations are an excellent tool for providing growers with real time weather data and conditions making management decisions in the orchard simpler and more targeted for the individual orchard.


Ian Pearce, Apple and cherry farmer, Orange

Bill Shields, Apple farmer, Bilpin

Jessica Fearnley, Temperate fruit and nuts development officer DPI

This work has been funded by the NSW Primary Industries Climate Change Research Strategy

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