Data Loggers Aid Site Selection Process at Fruit Farm
--- by Curtis Rowley, Cherry Hill Farms, Utah
For more than sixty years, four generations of our family have worked together producing “farm fresh produce” at Cherry Hill Farms in the mountain valleys of Central Utah. The fruit we harvest includes cherries, apples, and peaches. Our family has been blessed with the ability to continue farming even though the success of family farms has continued to decline over the past century.
One of the main reasons our farm has been successful has been the insight of my grandfather and father in finding the location we are now farming. Location is one of the real tricks for fruit farming. Being in a location that helps us grow high quality fruit makes it possible for us to provide a great service in our local markets. Many of the consumers are not thinking about where the fruit comes from, only that it meets their standards of quality. Furthermore, if you don’t have the right location, there’s just no point growing fruit that is going to cost more than it will make.
HOBO® Pro temperature data loggers from Onset are one of the tools that help us determine the best spots to grow. We wire these battery-powered devices to the fruit trees, and they sit out there recording air temperatures in various spots throughout the orchards. After a period of time, I bring my laptop out to the field and offload the data from each logger. I can then look at the temperature data and know, for example, where the coldest spots are in the orchard. Based on that, we may decide not to plant any peaches or sweet cherries in those spots, and instead choose to plant apples or tart cherries. Knowing the best growing location for each specific type of fruit is critically important to our operation.
We also use the data loggers for site selection in other places. We are always looking down the road into the future and these data loggers can help by gathering data for many days in a row without our having to visit the sites. We’ll go out and put HOBO loggers in remote locations several hours away on the first of November and go back on the first of June to look at the temperature data. Typically we try to do a five-year study on each location so we have a good average of what’s going on in terms of when a major frost may have occurred during the period, and when the last frost hit the area. We then compare this data with the other data collected on our existing farm to understand the risks in the research location.
Finally, the data loggers help us know when certain pests will appear in our orchards. By accumulating degree days and the mean daily average temperatures in the spring time, we can usually predict when pests will appear using scientific models. Three of these pests are Fire Blight, Codling Moth, and Peach Twig Bore. Fire Blight has become one of the biggest concerns in growing apples. We use the mean daily average to know when there is a possibility for an infection period. Codling Moth and Peach Twig Bore are two pests common in apples and peaches respectively. We use degree day models to calculate the time when we can expect them to start appearing. This, in turn, helps us know when to spray and rid them in the orchard.
The main advantage of the loggers for us is the convenience of being able to leave the loggers out in the field for a long period of time. Before we used data loggers, we would have to put high-low mercury thermometers in our research sites, and drive out six or seven hours once a week to check them. Now we only have to visit these sites a few times a year. We also like the fact that the loggers are weatherproof and hold up well even though they’re constantly getting beat on by the weather. The wind just blows them around and the loggers keep on ticking.
For more information about data loggers, please contact Onset Computer Corporation at 1-800-LOGGERS, or visit www.onsetcomp.com.