Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

United States: solar storm’s unforeseen effects on agriculture

By triji May 14, 2024
News

A solar storm on Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, interrupted the GPS of many tractors throughout North America.

The solar storm that occurred during the weekend of May 11 and 12, North America, had unanticipated effects on agricultural activity. For two nights, the northern lights illuminated the skies throughout the northern hemisphere. a relatively uncommon occurrence in the US or Europe. A solar storm that also interfered with power and communications infrastructure was the source of this spectacle.

Farmers have been forced to temporarily halt their sowing in Canada, the United States, and especially in the Midwest. Some fields are so big that a lot of farmers employ GPS-equipped tractors to plant seeds.

A GPS mistake of one meter means very little to anyone. However, this technique makes it possible to map and plant seeds more precisely, improving yield, when applied with an accuracy of 2 cm.

Farmers shared on social media that they were mid-sowing when an error warning appeared on their GPS. Planting could hardly go on without running the risk of the fields losing their regular arrangement.

The pioneer in agricultural positioning technology sent a warning to all of its clients on Friday, May 10, alerting them to the potential repercussions of the solar storm. In order to notify clients as soon as possible of these solar storms, the corporation stated that it was searching for a forecast tool.

Due to navigational system interference caused by the storm, some farmers were momentarily unable to plant their crops in tractors and other farming equipment.

At the height of planting season, certain navigational systems in tractors and other farming equipment malfunctioned due to the strong geomagnetic storm that over the weekend cast the vivid hues of the northern lights across the Northern Hemisphere, according to suppliers and farmers.

Using GPS and other navigational technology, the equipment helps farmers plant more accurately and effectively by maintaining straight rows without gaps or overlap. Many farmers have grown dependent on it. However, some of those operations in the Midwest and other parts of the US and Canada came to a temporary halt over the weekend.

The outages hindered several farmers in Minnesota who had intended to spend Friday night planting crops. Owner Patrick O’Connor, who farms primarily soybeans and maize about 80 miles south of Minneapolis, said, “I’ve never dealt with anything like this.”

According to Mr. O’Connor, he climbed into his tractor at around 5 p.m. with the intention of spending the night planting corn after being shut out of the weather for two weeks. He called a technical help line after receiving a warning regarding his GPS device, but the person who answered said there was an outage and nothing could be done to correct it.

Another farmer in Nebraska announced that his operations had been shut down to 404 Media, an online newspaper that covers technology. Kevin Kenney, the farmer, stated that “all the tractors are sitting at the ends of the field right now shut down because of the solar storm.” “No GPS,” he clarified. “Corn planting is currently underway.”

Violent discharges of charged particles from the sun’s surface are the cause of solar storms. A geomagnetic storm might arise from the material’s interaction with Earth’s magnetic field when it is headed toward our planet. The solar storm that occurred this past weekend was the largest to strike Earth since October 2003.

Suppliers of farm equipment had issued warnings about potential difficulties due to the storm. Additionally, Landmark Implement stated on Saturday that the incident had “extremely compromised” the accuracy of several of its systems. Landmark Implement sells John Deere farming equipment throughout the Midwest.

“We are looking for a tool to help predict this in the future so that we can try to give our customers an alert that this issue may be coming,” the firm stated in a statement. Instead of calling the storm something it would need to “continue to battle frequently,” it called it a “historic event.”

According to Terry Griffin, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, even though these storms are rare, farming in the US remains vulnerable because most crops are planted with the help of contemporary guiding systems.

“This was the first time we’ve had geomagnetic storms that were so strong, and we were dependent on GPS,” he stated, adding that planting season is one of the worst times for a storm of this kind to happen because accuracy is essential. Dr. Griffin noted that other technologies are being developed, such as artificial intelligence and machine vision systems or more specialized navigation systems that wouldn’t collapse during a solar storm.

The Minnesota farmer, Mr. O’Connor, stated that the interruption had shown him how dependent on technology, which he often takes for granted. If the outage were to occur again and last longer, he might have to “find ways to make do without.”

Rather than sowing corn on Friday night, Mr. O’Connor claimed he prepared a separate field while admiring the “phenomenal” hues of the sky. “I was still in the field, even though it interrupted my evening,” he continued.

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