Weather impact info now on the AIR

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has created a new application Canadians can access over the Internet to report on how weather and climate conditions affect their farm operations.

“It allows a producer to provide their story to us,” said Trevor Hadwen, an AAFC agroclimate specialist based in Regina.

The Agroclimate Impact Reporter (AIR) is an online tool for the collection, integration and display of agroclimate impact information across Canada that will enable AAFC to better understand the local and regional effects of agroclimate conditions and identify emerging risks to the broader agricultural sector.

“If they are flooded out due to a heavy rainstorm, they could go online and say, ‘My farm got 100 mm of rainfall on this date and it’s causing me a lot of problems,'” said Hadwen, adding that government will be able to draw from that information when developing programs and policies.

Not exactly a Twitter-for-farmers, the new site uses a kind of Google Maps locator where users can enter data that is superimposed on top of the existing Drought Watch map system, he said.

“They can click on the map and zoom in on their farm or their RM and see comments and all other data entries from that region and search whatever time period they want, whether the latest updates or last year,” said Hadwen.

“It’s a new added feature to Drought Watch that shows the impacts, rather than just the weather.”

AIR, Canada’s first geospatial database of agroclimate impacts, is managed by AAFC’s National Agroclimate Information Service (NAIS).

Users of the new online tool will be able to submit reports of weather impacts within their province, census district or municipality by time period and by category and severity of impact.

They will also be able to view counts of all weather impacts, display current or archived information as maps, search reports by user types, make data queries and overlay other existing or custom geospatial information.

Agroclimate staff will have access to better information for ministerial briefings, but uses for the private sector abound, added Hadwen.

A drought-ravaged rancher, for example, could narrow his search for hay by looking for areas nearby that have reported better forage growing conditions.

Two different systems feed the same database, he said. Once a month, some 300 AIR volunteers across the Prairies and Peace River region complete a report of 20 to 30 questions. But with the site’s planned expansion, up-to-the-hour information from non-regular users will be accessible to everyone.

To learn more or to join the volunteer network, visit AIR online.

— Daniel Winters reports for the Manitoba Co-operator from Oak Lake, Man. A version of this article appears in the July 11 issue.

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