Agriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Ecosystems

Precision Ag

Agriculture Impacts Weather: The Case for Connected Ecosystems

By Brent Shaw, VP of Weather Content and Customer Success, Iteris

Editor’s note: Brent Shaw, who is a member of AgGateway’s PAIL irrigation project, recently published a blog that may be of interest to AgGateway readers. Below are excerpts, and a link to the full blog, which ran last month in PrecisionAg magazine. Thanks for mentioning AgGateway, Brent!

It’s fascinating to see how modern technology has helped us increase our agricultural productivity in areas not otherwise suited for our higher value crops…. Most of us have experienced micrometeorological effects due to small scale variations of the landscape, but with the much larger areas of landscape modification, visible enough to be readily identified from space, I am reminded of research by scientists such as Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., postulating that landscape changes may be affecting climate regionally, perhaps much more significantly than any effect that atmospheric carbon dioxide content has had on a global scale.

Even as I was preparing this article, a press release came out discussing how a team of MIT scientists show evidence that Midwest summers have been cooler and wetter due to increased corn and soybean production. Just to get this on the record right away, I am not saying any of this is bad, good, or neutral. Our planet is an amazingly complex system of systems that are remarkably designed to interact and feedback with each other in more ways than we will ever understand in our lifetimes. We should apply what we have learned to feed a growing world more effectively while stewarding our most valuable resources such as water.

….My real interest in this area lies in whether or not we can improve our numerical weather prediction models, and thus our short and mid-term weather forecasts, through more accurate input information and improved physics algorithms.

….These results leave me with a couple of key takeaways as we consider the future of agriculture:

  1. We need to move beyond “one-way” data information exchange, where one part of our national infrastructure consumes data from another without reciprocation. In this case, instead of agriculture being purely a consumer of weather information, it should also be a contributor of data that can improve services for all. And it has to be much more than additional weather stations. If we actually had soil samples, planting dates, irrigation type and activities, we could feed such information directly into the land surface models to improve local scale weather forecasts directly. I recognize there are tremendous cultural, legal, and technical issues involved. But, I am hopeful we can realize this goal over time as the world’s different technologies continue to become more interconnected and groups like AgGateway continue to build data exchange standards.
  2. We need to recognize the hydrological cycle is also a local and regional issue, not just one associated with global climate patterns. Technologies such as Variable Rate Irrigation, combined with advanced weather, soil and agronomic analytics will become more cost-effective and will be enabling factors to help us become more weather-resilient. As a nation, we need to ensure we remain at the cutting edge of near-term weather analysis and forecasting science and technology to support these initiatives.

We have a lot of work to do and many challenges, from basic science through implementation to the legal challenges, but our need to feed a growing world will get us there as we work together.

Read the full blog here.