On-line services and on-farm weather stations help eliminate weather surprises

While most producers still look to the sky to get some feeling about the daily weather, more study their computer screens. They make use of the latest technology that can feed updated weather information into their farm offices or straight to their cell phones on a minute-by-minute basis.

Even with all the technology that funnels weather information through online weather services such as Environment Canada, The Weather Network and AccuWeather, there is still no guaranteed forecast for what is going to happen this afternoon, let alone tomorrow or five days from week.

But farmers interviewed for this issue of Grainews’ Farmer Panel say having access to real-time weather data, as well as radar mapping systems which shows what type of weather systems may be tracking over their region, help improve management decisions about key tasks such as spraying, swathing and combining.

Here is where farmers in this panel say they get their weather information:

MURRAY FROEBE HOMEWOOD, MAN.

Manitoba farmer Murray Froebe relies on three or four different free weather information sources to help him manage key farming operations. Like every producer, Froebe is interested in what the weather is or will be doing throughout the year, but for his farm east of Carman, there are some critical times when he needs to know how the weather is changing almost hour by hour.

“One website called has particularly good information on wind speed, which is obviously important during spraying season,” says Froebe, who is part of the family-owned Agassiz Seed Farm. “And then at harvest we are watching the weather to help us decide should we swath, or if we are combining I want to see how the relative humidity is changing and how that is affecting the threshing ability of the combine.”

Froebe says high-speed Internet access is one of the most important tools. It makes monitoring weather not only possible, but fast and convenient. Weather services usually come with lots of graphics, maps and other images, and a favorite feature for him is the moving radar weather maps that show how weather systems are tracking over his farm. “If I only had dial up Internet services, some of these images may not be available, or it would take me half a day to check on weather, rather than just a few minutes,” he says. He buys his Internet service from the Manitoba-based Prairie Mobile Communications (which offers high-speed services across Western Canada for between $40 and $50 per month.

With their 4,100-acre pedigree seed farm located about 80 kilometres north of the U. S. border, Froebe monitors both Canadian and U. S. weather information websites.

For Canadian weather information he regularly checks websites for Environment Canada, The Weather Network (and its Farmzone) and AccuWeather. (To get these website addresses, read my article beside this panel.) “These different websites use different weather forecasting models so they don’t always agree,” says Froebe. “One could be talking about rain, while another may describe it as periodic showers, so you still have to use your own judgment depending on what you are planning to do.”

To monitor U. S. weather systems, he checks sites such as “One of the big things for us to keep track of

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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