Weather stations helping Wisconsin apple farmers

An apple farm weather station in Wisconsin.
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- Is there anything better than biting into a fresh crisp Wisconsin apple this time of year?

According to the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, Wisconsin’s commercial orchards produce 49 million pounds of fruit each year. On average, that is worth more than $26 million a year.

With the installation of 20 weather instruments across the state, growing apples in the Badgers got a lot easier over the last couple of years.

“[Wisconsin Apple Growers Association] purchased 20 [weather stations]. We spread them out around the state. I think there were 5 grape growers and 15 apple farmers that got them,” said Steve Louis, the President of Oakwood Fruit Farm.

Louis said the weather station have been very helpful and would not want to farm with it now.

The weather station installed at Louis’ 180 acre farm measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, sunlight duration and intensity and wind speed.

Louis is constantly monitoring the weather data and models so he knows when to irrigate, spray and prune his apple trees.

“How many days out you should or should not be spraying. You can be a lot more efficient and accurate. The key is being accurate,” said Louis. “The old way you used to just spray and spray again. You didn't worry about it. Now we are trying to be really precise.”

The weather data is easily obtainable and available at the tips of Louis’ fingers. Louis is able to pull up the weather date on his mobile phone in the middle of his orchard.

The weather station also has special sensor that acts like a leaf when it rains. Louis will know exactly how long the leaves on his trees will be wet, which helps him protect against disease.

“Some of our major diseases that we have to worry about are what is called scab. It is a fungus basically,” said Louis.

Steve added the weather data these stations collect can be just as valuable for Wisconsin grape, corn and soybean farmers.

The data is available to anyone through the Network for Environment and Weather Applications.