Sustainability thanks to reliable forecasts
About weather apps and love messages
It’s 5.30am. Wolfgang Prantl is sitting at the large breakfast table of his farm in Castelbello/Colsano enjoying his coffee. His two sons Patrick and Manuel are joining him. They are still a bit tired but already in spirit of optimism. A new day is beginning and there is a lot to do. Three mobile phones are on the table, smartphones, of course. While the two sons are checking their WhatsApp news for new love messages, father Wolfgang is already in his apple orchard – mentally at least. Or rather in several of his apple orchards at the same time. The orchards belonging to his farm are all in Val Venosta, but the most eastern orchard is situated at an altitude of 600 m, whereas the most western one is situated at an altitude of more than 1,000 m. They are about 40 km from each other. Then Wolfgang also swipes across the touch screen: There are two weather apps on his start screen. As a member of Val Venosta’s apple producers he has access to the weather app of the South Tyrolean Advisory Service. Thanks to well-distributed weather stations in the Val Venosta Apple Paradise this software provides valuable information about the actual weather in the valley. But this is not all. Wolfgang also needs a weather forecast app. This second weather app is actually for Switzerland but the forecast for eastern Switzerland also includes the weather in Val Venosta down to Merano and is of great use for Val Venosta’s apple producers.
“I attach great importance to the weather forecast according to the old farmer’s almanac because these weather forecasts around the so-called ice saints and others are based on decades of observations of our ancestors. The old weather proverbs are very often still valid even though the climate has recently changed much faster. Trust, but verify. So the more exact, the better for me,“ says Wolfgang. This is the reason why he needs all this technology on his smartphone. It provides very precise real-time forecasts about temperature, humidity, wind and precipitation. This software allows him to see the presence of a larger rain cloud with a precision of 20 minutes and a position accuracy of 2-3 km. Manuel and Patrick know what their father is talking about because the duties at the farm are largely distributed according to these software forecasts. “If the app forecasts rain for the most western orchard in the afternoon, for example, one of us has to go there early enough and perhaps spread leaf fertilizer as a preventive measure. Because when it rains, many types of lice reproduce very quickly. Lice deprive the plant of magnesium and manganese and thus weaken it before their natural antagonists can start their fight. If I don’t feed the plant preventively, the nutrient deficiency can have an impact on the fruits that might get unpleasant dents. My apples would then have cellulite and we don’t want that in Val Venosta,“ smiles Wolfgang. His approach is the same when it comes to protecting his trees from fungus diseases. He is able to avoid many unnecessary treatments thanks to precise weather forecasts confined to a narrow area.
You can see the importance of the app every day. The high reliability of this technology is indispensable for the sustainable work of Val Venosta’s apple producers. Son Patrick puts it in a nutshell: “If we spread leaf fertilizer preventively and purely on spec and if it then didn’t rain, the treatment would be in vain, which means that the plant would get a nutritional supplement it doesn’t actually need.“
In the Val Venosta Apple Paradise with more than 300 sunny days per year, cloudless weather is quite normal and so the apple producers have to know how to deal with it correctly. “If it doesn’t rain for a very long time, the tree evaporates more and more water through its pores. The plant then tends to protect itself in the long run and seeks water wherever it can get it, if necessary also from the ripening fruit.“ This is why reliable weather forecasts are indispensable in this case as well. They allow us to irrigate at the right moment. The software’s information regarding wind force is also much appreciated. If the strength of Val Venosta’s fresh wind exceeds a certain level, leaf fertilizers or fungus treatments make no sense. Furthermore, the weather apps’ precise forecasts can also optimize the use of harvesters in every single orchard.
Wolfgang already sees the weather animations on his smartphone at the crack of dawn. They inspire his imagination and drive and help him to plan his day hour for hour. He gives his sons a few more minutes on WhatsApp and to finish their coffee until they are fully awake. But then it’s time to start with a briefing before they all swarm out in all directions to get to their apple orchards that are dispersed all over the Val Venosta Apple Paradise. With active GPS signal and a fully charged mobile phone battery for the weather app forecasts and for love messages that you can fortunately not always foresee. So it’s always very exciting here in the middle of the alpine mountain world of Val Venosta’s apple producers.