Farmers feel the heat when a late season freeze is in the forecast.

Some farmers in Colorado are testing out new technology that can help them monitor the weather not only on their farms, but others as well. The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union worked with Smart Yields, a Hawaii based tech company, to install sensor technology on 16 farms across the state. It allows users to not only monitor and get alerts about conditions on their farm and farms in neighboring areas.

“In Orchard Mesa and Palisade, the conventional wisdom is the coldest farms are further west,” said Harrison Topp, membership director for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and owner of Topp Fruits. “The farms closer to the canyon can see the cold weather moving towards you.” It can also give farmers a better look at the idiosyncrasies of their land. “What I’ve learned is that in terms of what the temperature difference is huge,” Topp said. “That’s been a huge advantage in determining where we are going to plant future crops.”

Supporters said it can help give farmers a better understanding of these microclimates, and broader climate change.

“We are seeing trees moving into bloom a month earlier than they should. This informs fruit growers of the huge climate changes that are impacting us and maybe we should shift crops that are a little bit more frost tolerant,” said Frank Stonaker, a research scientist and site manager for Western Colorado Research Center, Rogers Mesa, and the owner of Osito Orchard.

It’s already paid dividends on one farm that was alerted to freezing temperatures and helped the farmer save his crop. It can also prevent farmers from using countermeasures when they don’t have to. It can cost $500 per acre to heat an orchard through frost season.

Those with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union are looking to expand the technology to other farms. They and those with the technology company are also looking to see how these sensors can be put to use elsewhere: such as for tracking moisture in the soil and humidity to help control pests. “This past year was a pilot study to see how it worked, so I’m excited to see in the future working with them and how to best improve the product,” Topp said.

Originally published on KWXT 10 –  Author: Crispin Havener

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