FORECAST MODELS

“Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.”

Sun Tzu"The Art of War" - c. 6th century BCE

The emerging of a stronger environmental awareness, the attention to human health both by consumers and producers, the awareness of treatment economic costs by farmers have led to the spread of integrated and organic farming.

They are regulated by regional Disciplinary of Integrated Production and by several European, national, and regional regulations.

This change has led to the reduction of environmental impact in conventional agriculture as well. It means prudent use of the main crop input: water, fertilizers, and plant protection products.

Crop management operations

Potatura mal dell'esca

Intervento di dendrochirurgia contro il mal dell’esca messo a punto da Simonit&Sirch (© Simonit&Sirch)

Plant diseases can be prevented or limited thanks to:

  • Agronomic operations: deep plowing, pruning, crop rotations, fertilization;
  • Mechanical systems: removing parts of the plant affected by the disease or eliminating phytophagous;
  • Physical systems: chromotropic, light or pheromone traps for the mass capture of insects;
  • Biological systems: releasing or promoting the presence of other living organisms in the environment that predate phytophagous;
  • Chemical operations: use of phytopharmaceuticals.

Fertilization can also be carried out using different techniques. It is possible to increase the physical-chemical soil fertility by giving it organic matter, or to increase physical fertility by carrying out mineral fertilizations or green manures.

Similarly, irrigation can be realized with several types of planting and timing, to be adapted to the crop and the specific situation according to various criteria.

Modern crop management strategies aim to optimise the use of input, preferring non-chemical ones where possible. The goal is:

  1. reducing crop management costs,
  2. improving quality of products,
  3. safeguarding the animal and plant species in the agroecosystem, which maintains its resilience.

Consequently, it is important to choose the appropriate management techniques, establish the quantity of necessary input for crops, and especially the most suitable times for distributing them.

Effective strategies require continuous quantitative monitoring, which provides up-to-date information on outbreaks, phenological status of crops, their nutritional or water stress. This is not always feasible, as it involves intensive crop scouting, laboratory analyses, and considerable scientific knowledge: slow, very expensive, and consequently inefficient methods.

Forecast models – What are they

Forecast models provide farm entrepreneur with tools able to read and process environmental data (weather conditions, crop characteristics). It is possible to obtain early quantitative information on crop conditions in order to plan effective, efficient and targeted actions in a simple way and without field intervention.

In addition to the weather forecasts, forecasts models specifically developed for the agricultural sector provide useful information for decisions support such as:

  • Phenology of the crop (stage of crops development or stage of fruits ripening)
  • Risk of infestation caused by specific pathogens or phytophagous at each stage of the crop cycle
  • Crop nutritional requirements
  • Crop water requirements

This information is highly accurate, as well as being easily readable by operators, and allows remote control of data, which are difficult to find, but essential to make decisions.

Forecast models – How they can be used

Forecast models are an efficient support for farmers. They are a very important element of the whole DSS (Decision Support System), they simplify work and increase the effectiveness of decisions in the phytosanitary protection, irrigation management, and fertilization.

A valuable tool for the competent technician, who will be able to assess the most appropriate defense strategy depending on technical, social and economic characteristics of the company.