HERE ARE SEVERAL WEBSITE ADDRESSES FOR WEATHER MONITORING, MEASURING AND FORECASTING SERVICES AVAILABLE TO WESTERN CANADIAN FARMERS: U. S. WEBSITE: WWW.INTELLICAST.COM ENVIRONMENT CANADA: WWW.WEATHEROFFICE.GC.CA/CANADA_E.HTML WEATHER NETWORK: WWW.THEWEATHERNETWORK.COM ACCUWEATHER: WWW.ACCUWEATHER.COM WEATHERBUG: WEATHER. WEATHERBUG.COM CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD: WWW.CWB.CA/PUBLIC/EN AGRI-TREND AGROLOGY: WWW.AGRITREND.COM DTN: WWW.DTN.COM MANITOBA AGRICULTURE: WWW.GOV.MB.CA/AGRICULTURE/INTRO/YFUTURE/CFF01S17.HTML ALBERTA AGRICULTURE: WWW.AGRIC.GOV.AB.CA/APP21/RTW/INDEX.JSP INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANALYST, QT WEATHER, ALAN MOTEW: WWW.QTWEATHER.COM
Everyone wants to know about the weather. I call my 84-year-old mother, who lives on the home farm in Eastern Ontario, once or twice a week, and we still spend the first five or 10 minutes of each call updating each on weather for the week in our respective areas.
For Prairie farmers running multi-million dollar operations, being able to manage around unpredictable weather can make or break an operation.
A wide array of tools are available to help farmers get current conditions for this minute or this hour. These tools also give the best forecast possible for later today or later this week.
Manitoba and Alberta provincial departments of agriculture, working with other agencies, have developed extensive weather monitoring services.
Agencies such as the Canadian Wheat Board now offer producers, for a nominal fee, the opportunity to connect to an on-farm weather station network called WeatherBug.
Environment Canada, The Weather Network and AccuWeather offer free on-line services providing short-and long-term weather forecasting.
This article will look at each of these options in detail.
MANITOBA’S AG WEATHER PROGRAM
The past couple years Manitoba Agriculture has beefed up its weather station network across the province, providing producers with more accurate current information and useful management tools, says Andy Nadler, the department’s agricultural meteorologist.
Today the department has 32 permanent weather stations, and also installs several seasonal stations, from the Interlake Region south through the Red River Valley to the U. S. border, providing producers with a wide range of weather information on line.
“The objective wasn’t to have a lot of weather stations, but to provide a core network that provides high quality data,” says Nadler. Data collected by the stations provides producers with real-time (current) weather information including temperature, humidity, soil temperature, wind speed and direction, and rainfall.
Some of the special features Manitoba Ag offers with its weather program include disease forecasting for grain and oilseed crops. For potato producers, late blight disease forecasts and predictions of irrigation requirements are available.
Rainfall, wind speed and direction, in particular, are useful tools for farmers planning field spraying operations, says Nadler. Aerial applicators can now also look at current conditions over a wider area to determine if or where they can operate.
Other planning tools include calculators that determine, based on seeding date, the heat units and the number of frost-free days before harvest.
For forage producers the service also offers relative feed value reports, says Nadler. This helps a farmer determine the timing to cut alfalfa, based on heat units, to optimize yield and quality.
Manitoba Agriculture weather services are free. And they have structured their network to complement other weather station networks, such as Environment Canada’s.
WEATHER IN ALBERTA
Just about everything you ever wanted to know about current and past weather is available on line from Alberta Agriculture’s AgroClimatic Information Services.
The department collects data from 263 weather stations across the province, processes and posts some 50,000 observations per day, and has about 3,000 maps showing all types of weather-related data on the website, says Ralph Wright, soil moisture specialist.
The department collects current data that includes temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction, and compiles all that into a host of maps and reports on soil moisture, snow pack, temperature trends, disease and insect levels, and drought indices.
Current weather information is updated every two hours, says Wright. Their weather website does carry Environment Canada forecasting services, but like Manitoba, Alberta sticks with collecting and analyzing current weather conditions.
The site provides a wide range of useful planning data, simply displayed in colour-coded provincial maps. Producers can see maps that show precipitation relative to normal, or snow pack on stubble fields relative to normal, or soil moisture and temperature maps relative to normal — both short and long term.
The department makes this huge database available to individuals or companies who might be interested in offering value added services, says Wright.
The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and a network of about 30 industry partners eventually hope to have about 950 weather stations set up across Western Canada over the coming year or two.
WeatherBug launched August 2007, and about 500 stations are already operating in Western Canada, says Guy Ash, CWB weather network manager.
WeatherBug weather stations can
Tap Into WeatherMonitors
be installed on individual farms, at ag service centres, or other rural locations as designated by network partners, says Ash. “We want to tie our network in with other weather networks to provide the most detailed weather information available.” WeatherBug already partners with Environment Canada, for example, but is open to network with other weather information collection networks.
An individual weather station, set up and operating on a farm costs about $1,750 with a $100 annual subscription fee. Information collected by that station can be accessed by the producer by computer, on the website and even on smart cellular phone service.
Along with collecting basic real-time weather information such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, and rainfall, which is updated every five seconds, the service provides a wide range of models and services useful for crop production and management. WeatherBug does provide standard one-to five-day weather forecasts for Western Canada, as well.
The service also runs models to show the risk of wheat midge emergence or the sclerotinia disease risk. The option is available to collect measurements such as solar energy, ultraviolet light, soil moisture and soil temperature at the crown of winter wheat, and leaf moisture in crops.
“The system is very flexible and producers can add in a variety of sensors and tools and models that run off those sensors,” says Ash.
ONLINE WEATHER SITE
Three services providing online current weather information as well as forecasting include Environment Canada and private companies such as The Weather Network and AccuWeather. Each service uses different models to determine their forecast, which can produce variations in forecasts.
Environment Canada’s online services are free, although it does offer a one-on-one telephone consultation service with a meteorologist that costs $2.99 per minute.
The Weather Network provides free weather forecasting services on line, and also has an agriculture-focused website called Farmzone.com.
DTN, a company well known for on-line commodity marketing services, also has its own weather information and forecasting services for Western Canada. DTN and the Albertabased Agri-Trend Marketing (a division of Agri-Trend Agrology) were to announce in late March that they will team up to offer expanded content on world markets, market news and weather.
You can also buy your own weather station, available at a wide range of prices. Agri-Trend Agrology, in its Farm Tool Shed, carries a WatchDog Model 2700 weather station that provides history and up-to-the-minute measurements of local weather and crop conditions. You can read these measurements on the weather station itself, on your cell phone, or at the home or office computer. It retails for $1,195.
A new weather-monitoring tool, available this year, is the WatchDog Sprayer Station that mounts right on the field sprayer. This weather station monitors air temperatures, humidity, dew point, wind chill, barometric pressure, wind speed and wind direction, as well as recording vehicle speed and direction.
The WatchDog Sprayer Station retails for $1,395. It, too, is available from the Agri-Trend Agrology online Tool Shed.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews out of Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]