As well as supporting winter cover crop choices and management, the information provided could be generally applicable to a broader range of land management activities, and therefore assist better winter land management decisions in general.
The overall vision is to produce one specific working example of a seasonal weather decision making tool for land management in general. In itself, this would include a range of sectors, but the general methodology would also be applicable to different UK and European regions. In the longer-term, we will therefore aim to extend the tool to other weather-related land management decisions beyond just cover-crops (e.g. livestock management, forestry operations), and to other regions (not just Devon and South West UK).
Firstly, the agricultural application chosen here (cover crops) could be broadened to other agricultural uses, then extended beyond agriculture to other sectors. For instance, beyond prototype developed in this project, additional benefits could include supporting more informed decisions.
Secondly, the tool could be expanded to other land management sectors and decisions, such as:
1 - Agriculture: overwintering of cattle; manure spreading and management; amount of silage fodder crops to be grown (cattle over wintered in poor wet winters); forage availability; trafficability and access to land; timing of harvesting to minimise drying costs; timing of applications of sprays and fertilizers - essential in NVZ and Soil Protection review; guidance on pest or disease pressure.
2 - Forestry: ground conditions for access and operations; predictions on tree disease spreading enabling proactive felling and other activity to be initiated).
3 - Property/construction: scheduling of maintenance, construction site operations/access, and outdoor events.
4 - Renewables: e.g. placement and operation of solar farms.
5 - Nature conservation/biodiversity management: species’ long-term range expansions/contractions; fire risk; predictions of and amelioration of short-term population fluctuations.
6 - Equestrian arena and events: very wet conditions may affect access while very dry conditions may require irrigation.
7 - Flood plain management.
8 - Infrastructure management: early warning of the need to limit vehicle movements to avoid damage. For instance, there was more damage to the Pebblebed heaths in two recent winters from frost heave than during the last 20 years.
Thirdly, as the tool develops, real time updates on the subjects above could be considered (one example of such a system is Aquaspy: www.aquaspy.com which provides real-time soil moisture date).
Time permitting, we will also have a case study on forestry and cold spells, based on "sudden stratospheric warnings" for shorter lead times. This could focus both on unmetalled road access and winter planting. For instance access to timbermills. is usually open all year round but when frost comes out of the ground, forest roads can be destroyed and impassable (e.g. winters of 2010, 2011/2012). 6 weeks-2 months notice of these conditions would be useful. The key threshold is when frost thaws. It would also be useful to be able to warn sawmillers of no supplies in advance.