Metro-East Living

The farmer takes an app: Weather still a guessing game

Weather causes a lot of head-scratching for farmers.

It’s an occupation that has Mother Nature in charge and growers doing their best to be good predictors so they can get the best yield from their fields.

Greg Guenther, 60, of Belleville works “a small family farm” and has been growing corn and soybeans since 1970.

How did you become a farmer?

“I married into it. My wife Nancy (Kniepkamp) comes from a farm family.”

How do you try and stay ahead of the weather?

“It’s all kind of a guessing game. It’s kind of important I know what’s happening in the next few days. ... Radio weather is pretty awful. I get the majority (of forecasting) off TV. Plus, I have mobile apps on my phone that I can access and see what’s going on in the next couple hours.”

How does being able to forecast the weather affect what you do in the fields?

Greg gave a couple examples. “Well, in the spring you need to know if the ground is dry enough to work. ... And, I need to know if it will be dry enough to spray herbicides. If I spray 100 acres, it needs to be on weeds 12 hours” without any rain to wash it off.

“In the fall, we look at the weather window and try to figure out if we have time to get the crops in. We have ground a distance away and we have to take stuff out there in the fall to harvest,” so it’s good to be able to time it so the equipment is there when it can be put to good use.

Rain, in particular, affects yield. He recalled times when one patch of land just a few miles away from another did much better in a season because rain fell in that area and not another.

How would you describe your relationship with Mother Nature?

“Well, it impacts our livelihood. Mother Nature can be pretty merciless.”

Do you think you’re more in tune with what’s happening with the weather than the average person?

“Yes, a lot more than John Q. Public. But I think that only because we’re so dependent on what the weather will do. I can tell a lot of times what’s going to happen. I can feel the atmosphere, like if it’s going to be a wet day.”