April 27, 2016
What mother nature will do next is what Henderson County apple farmers hope to better predict with new technology. North Carolina is the ninth state to get weather stations connected by the Network For Environment And Weather Applications, also knows as NEWA. The weather stations are $2000 each, but apple farmers expect to save money with the data they provide in the long run. Those devices provide farmers with real-time weather data at their fingertips through an app. “Say I need to spray something. I can pull it up on my phone and say, ‘Well, wind is still blowing at the house,’” Mike Pack, who owns M&M Berry Farm, said. “I can keep on doing what I’m doing at that time. And just as soon as the wind lays, I can come and do what I need.”
“It broadcasts through radio frequency to the piece that’s in the house and then the piece that’s in the house communicates with internet directly,” Randy Knighten, a computer tech with advanced PC solutions, said. “And it sends all that information out, so they don’t have to have a dedicated computer. They don’t have to leave anything turned on, so it really works good for them.” What’s so special about this new weather tracker is not only the app it feeds information to; it’s the quantity and quality of data that’s gathered by this lightweight piece of technology. “I looked at it last night and it’s already throwing data at me from our weather station,” Bryson Nix, an orchard manager at Apple Wedge Packers, said. “Being a farmer you don’t want to just know what’s going on with your crop. You want to know what’s going on with everyone else’s crop and the weather around you.” It can help farmers predict peak insect population and disease pressure, so they don’t waste pesticides when they’re not needed, which will better the crop and save farmers money. Whether a crop excels or dies depends on the weather, and knowing what will happen sooner rather than later is always best. Blue Ridge Apple Growers Association, North Carolina Apple Growers Association, and Luts Petroleum are sponsoring most of the cost of the weather stations. Henderson County now has eight weather stations.