Climate change spurs adoption of temperature monitoring, new farming practices
Wednesday, Jun 5th 2013

While climate change has been a subject of much political debate, there are many undeniable facts that demonstrate markedly different environmental conditions. Climate change affects a wide variety of industries and world development, perhaps most directly the agricultural sector. More fluctuations in climate create a growing need for environmental monitoring, especially as farming practices are adapted to meet changing conditions.

In a recent article for the Daily Monitor, contributor Lominda Afedraru reported that the effects of climate change on the agriculture sector are particularly noticeable in Uganda.

"In Uganda, climate change and increased weather variability has been observed and is manifested in the increase in frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns," Afedraru wrote. She later added, "These changing weather patterns have come with challenges such as tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer's yields."

Afedraru explained that the fluctuations in weather patterns are making it increasingly difficult for farmers to adequately plan using traditional knowledge of the region's two planting seasons. In order to accurately predict seasonal fluctuations, farmers can utilize environmental monitor tools to gain a better sense of temperature and humidity changes. With a fuller picture of heat and water density, farmers can adjust their farming strategies and maintain their livelihoods. For example, if droughts are imminent, farmers can grow quickly maturing crops like vegetables, which will afford them greater success in prolonged dry spells.

Monitoring temperature in animals
One of the side effects of climate change is that animals are exposed to higher temperatures than traditionally used to, which can result in heat stress that has a whole slew of complications as well. Heat stress can negatively affect cattle specifically, and temperature monitoring can go a long way in reducing the devastating effects.

A recent Minnesota Farm Guide article detailed that the thermal heat index was developed as a way to evaluate the potential that cattle will fall victim to heat stress. It is calculated based on air temperature and humidity. The source provided a detailed example, noting that if a day's temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit and has a relative humidity of 70 percent, conditions are considered fatal. These conditions are obviously more extreme, but this example highlights how humidity monitoring can help enable farmers to take a proactive approach to ensuring the health of their herd. The higher the humidity and temperature, the higher cattle water intake will be.

A recent press release from CAS DataLoggers detailed that many different types of organizations need to monitor animal temperature to support efforts of conservation and research.

"A common application involves continually monitoring animals by recording their skin or internal temperature data," the release stated. "Surface or rectal temperature probes (usually thermocouples) connected to portable data loggers are an effective means for measuring and viewing all of the minute temperature changes occurring over both short and long time periods. After looking at the data, staff can then take preventative measures to help prevent a fever, serious infection or disease."

If environmental monitors indicate that an animal is at high risk of heat stress or other diseases, there are many steps that can be taken to prevent conditions from escalating. For example, Minnesota Farm Guide explained how cattle farmers can make adjustments in the areas of water supply, sprinklers, shade, feed, bedding, cattle handling and air movement. In a scenario where a humidity monitor indicates troublesome conditions, cattle handlers can improve the direct environment and make animals more comfortable by adjusting the water supply and pressure as well as installing sprinklers to cool the animals. However, animal caretakers should implement a sprinkler system that administers large water droplets rather than misting, as misting can actually increase humidity and be counterproductive to cooling initiatives.