#05 2023

SAEON showcases freely available weather data to farmers at Bergville Agricultural Expo

By Corrina Naidoo, Intern, EFTEON Northern Drakensberg

The Expanded Freshwater and Terrestrial Environmental Observation Network (EFTEON) hosted a stand with a variety of instrumentation used to record weather and atmospheric data in South Africa at an agricultural expo hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs at the Bergville Sport Centre on 29 August. 

On display was the IRGASON, the integrated open-path analyser and sonic anemometer, which measures carbon dioxide and water vapour in the atmosphere, a solar radiation sensor, a tipping bucket rain gauge that measures the amount of rainfall per rainfall event, ground temperature probes which measure the temperature just below ground surface, MiniVols which collect atmospheric pollutants for weekly air quality tests, and a logger box which stores the logger for recording the data collected by these instruments.

The EFTEON team explained to local and commercial farmers, stakeholders and students what each of the instruments recorded, and how they could use the SAEON data that are freely available for the benefit of their farming.

The farmers were mostly interested in the data they could use from rain gauges to determine optimum times for sowing of seeds, and how to minimise irrigation on their farms. The EFTEON team explained that the data were representative of a collection of recordings over a long period and could therefore be used in forecasting rainfall and temperature.

The Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students were interested in how the different applications for weather and atmospheric data could be used in their studies and how they could become more educated on these instruments. There were many questions from the youth about careers in and research around weather and the atmosphere. Others asked about learning how to manage the data from weather stations.

The team took a register of the people who visited the EFTEON stand and handed out business cards to direct them to the NRF-SAEON website. The expo presented an exciting platform for sharing information and spreading the word to local and commercial farmers about how the important work EFTEON does could be of benefit to them.

The expo was intended for the local community and farmers to gather information about the different techniques available to them to increase their produce yield and compete with commercial farmers. To facilitate this, companies and farmers had the opportunity to showcase their agricultural developments to others. CEDARA College of Agriculture had a stall on farming methods, for example, while other stalls showcased their new equipment, seeds and fertilisers that increase produce output.

EFTEON instrument technician Jeremy Moonsamy (right) discussing long-term rainfall records collected by Dr Michele Toucher at SAEON’s Grasslands Node

EFTEON intern Corrina Naidoo (right) explaining the range of instruments available to monitor weather and atmospheric changes over time