Mid North workshops to help farmers interpret weather data

Weather station workshops to help Mid North farmers get the drift

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Free workshops will be held across the Mid North throughout August and September to help local farmers access and interpret the live data generated from a new network of weather stations.

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A network of 40 automatic weather stations across the Mid North will help local farmers to better recognise suitable chemical spraying conditions and avoid temperature inversions, or other adverse weather conditions for spraying.

The Mid North Mesonet is available to all farmers, and a series of free workshops will be held across the region throughout August and September to assist local farmers to access and interpret the live data generated.

The workshops will be held on August 28 at Lochiel; August 29 at the Hart Field-Site, Spalding and Booborowie; August 30 at Balaklava via the Halbury/Whitwarta Ag Bureau; September 2 at Crystal Brook, Georgetown and Jamestown; September 3 at Hilltown, Farrell Flat and Marrabel; September 5 at Clare; and September 6 via the Mallala Ag Bureau.

The Mesonet project is a $1.4-million state-of-the art automatic weather station network designed to observe localised meteorological phenomena, in particular, the presence of adverse conditions for spraying.

Some of the information available from each station includes temperature, rainfall, windspeed, delta T, relative humidity and grass fire danger index.

With weather stations located at sites from Jamestown and Port Pirie, across to Mount Bryan in the north, in and around the Clare Valley and almost to Two Wells in the south, the network provides highly-accurate and targeted readings via a custom-built, user-friendly website.

We don't want to stop farmers from spraying, we want them to be armed with accurate data and weather information to ensure they are spraying at the right times. - PETER COUSINS

Mid North Mesonet committee member Peter Cousins said it would be the first time that anyone will be able to accurately measure a temperature inversion.

"Traditionally farmers have guessed when there's an inversion, but generally it's very hard to pick because you can't see it," he said.

"It gives growers real-life, accurate data 24-hours a day on their mobile devices, to know when to spray and when not to spray.

"We don't want to stop farmers from spraying, we want them to be armed with accurate data and weather information to ensure they are spraying at the right times."

Temperature inversion occurs when air temperature increases with height from the ground surface, which is the opposite of normal conditions (i.e. the temperature profile is 'inverted').

This results in a layer of cool air being trapped below warmer air, and this layer of air is often but not always still. The height above the ground where the temperature stops increasing and begins to decrease is the top of the inversion layer.

Surface temperature inversions generally occur overnight, but can form in late afternoon and can persist into the next day.

If pesticides (e.g. fungicides, herbicides, insecticides) are sprayed during an inversion, fine droplets of the chemical can be concentrated in the cool layer near the ground and isolated from the surrounding weather conditions.

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The direction and distance which the droplets then move becomes unpredictable and the chemical may be transported away from the target area, this is referred to as spray drift.

While there has been a concentrated education program to help spray operators minimise spray drift, (including assistance in achieving optimum droplet size, correct choice of nozzle and operating pressures), Mid North Mesonet now provides farmers real-time access to accurate weather data and systems that warn of the presence, or potential, of conditions likely to result in drift.

The Mesonet network has been developed in partnership with PIRSA, Hart Field-Site Group, Ag Excellence Alliance, and support from Member for Frome Geoff Brock.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the state government was proud to support this initiative, providing producers with essential, accurate weather data and warning systems of the presence or potential conditions likely to result in spray drift.

"This critical investment will ensure our producers have the necessary data to make responsible, informed decisions in managing their properties into the future," he said.

Mid North Mesonet will be officially launched at the Hart Field Day on Tuesday, September 17.

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