WSU has 135 weather stations in farming communities - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

WSU has 135 weather stations in farming communities

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PROSSER, Wash.  -- Many of the decisions that are made by growers and producers are directly or directly affected by either past weather conditions, current conditions, or future conditions and forecasts. Although the NWS provides a wealth of weather information, it does not always address current horticultural issues. As a result, many Land-Grant Universities have developed automated weather station networks to specifically support the local agricultural and horticultural industries. Examples include the University of Nebraska, the University of Georgia that runs one of the largest weather networks in the southeastern USA and Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University, which operate one of the largest networks in the USA.

 Washington State University (WSU) initiated the Public Agricultural Weather System (PAWS) in 1988. This initiative received support from the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and many others associated with local agriculture.

 Over the years the system has gone through many changes in instrumentation, communication and sensing technologies as well as management. In 2008, the network was upgraded to a state-of-the-art network and the network currently comprises 135 automated stations. The name of the network was changed from PAWS to AgWeatherNet several years ago.

"Each weather station monitors air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, soil radiation, wind speed, soil moisture, soil temperature," says Gerrit Hoogenboom, the Director of AgWeatherNet.

A scheme has been developed for rotation and calibration of each sensor using the calibration facilities that are currently being developed at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, Washington. There are also plans to hire a meteorologist who will be responsible for the daily quality assessment and quality control procedures. The goal of AgWeatherNet is to provide high quality data that are of benefit to growers, producers and others interested in local weather information.

Easy access to local weather data is as important as providing accurate data. PAWS and AgWeatherNet have moved from local radio telemetry communications to using cellular-based data telemetry and the Internet for transmission of data between each weather station and local computer servers.

AgWeatherNet currently has one data server located at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (TFREC) in Wenatchee and one data server located at IAREC in Prosser. The data from each station are pulled every 15 minutes, sent to a local database in Prosser and pushed to a web server on the main campus of WSU in Pullman. Through the web site  users can retrieve current weather information, a summary of yesterday's weather data and many other customized data reports.

One of the strengths of AgWeatherNet is not only the dissemination of accurate weather data, but also weather-based tools and decision aids. Models for cherry powdery mildew, grape bunch rot, grape powdery mildew, hop powdery mildew and potato early and late blight have been implemented.

 There are plans to expand this to pests and diseases for other tree fruit crops. In addition, the tools that are available on the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Decision Aid System are also powered by the weather data from AgWeatherNet. A tool that provides information for grape cold damage has also been implement on AgWeatherNet in collaboration with the Viticulture and Enology Program of WSU.

There is also an option to set an alert system that sends a text message to your cell phone based on preset threshold values for temperature and other weather variables.

Initially WSU is planning to develop both simple and more complex phenological models that can predict growth and development over time using local weather data from AgWeatherNet as well as crop and variety specific information.

This will require using historical data bases on crop development as well as collecting detailed data where needed to help develop these models. Coupling current weather information, past weather data, weather forecasts and climate outlooks with these crop models will allow growers to have a better indication of the current status of a tree or crop and to make more informed management decisions. Ultimately the goal of AgWeatherNet is to not only provide timely and reliable data, but also to provide tools and decision aids which are relevant and can be easily accessed and applied.


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