Expansion of WSU Weather Monitoring System to Help Westside Producers

PROSSER – West side agricultural producers are now better able to access timely weather information, thanks to the addition of new monitoring stations to Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet system.

WSU’s AgWeatherNet team, based at the university’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, Wash., recently installed a new monitoring station at 21 Acres Farm near Woodinville in King County. New stations also have been installed in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, Grays Harbor, Clark and Skamania counties.

The stations are equipped with sensors for monitoring and recording air temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, solar radiation, leaf wetness, soil temperature and moisture to a depth of eight inches, and rainfall.

The AgWeatherNet system provides free online public access to the raw weather data derived from the network of 114 publicly owned, regional weather stations. Most stations are located in the irrigated regions of eastern Washington providing nearly real-time weather data at 15-minute intervals for local growers.

According to AWN Project Operations Manager Bob Krebs, the AWN team has completed about 80 percent of a project for retrofitting the existing network of 56 weather stations and installing new regional stations. When the current project is completed the network will consist of a total of about 130 stations, and will more than triple the number of stations in the Cascade Mountains and western Washington.

“Accurate and timely weather information is a critical tool for helping growers make crop management decisions,” Krebs said. “We are pleased that 21 Acres Farm contacted us about setting up a station, and that we’ve been able to add stations to help growers in southwestern Washington. We are always interested in hearing from potential site sponsors, especially in areas that currently have limited coverage.”

Partnering with WSU to place an AgWeatherNet monitoring station at 21 Acres Farm provides mutual benefits and serves the farm’s mission, according to 21 Acres Executive Director Debora Boeck.

“Our mission includes education and community engagement around issues of sustainable agriculture and having the station on site really advances our work,” Boeck said. “We’ll use the information generated with our farmers onsite from Growing Washington, as well as in our education programs. We want t o explore expanding this partnership to add other stations on the property in the future, for example to inform our orchard management.”

WSU Grays Harbor County Extension Educator Don Tapio said the new west side stations, particularly the one located in the Brady Bottoms area near Montesano, are a vital tool for helping growers in his area with managing irrigation, and weed and pest control.

“The Brady Bottoms area is one of the most intensely farmed areas in our county with most of our cannery pea and sweet corn production located there,” Tapio said. “This is an important tool in helping growers schedule both cultural practices and pest management programs for maximum efficiency. And the best part is that the information is readily available at any time and easy to access.”

Montesano farmer Larry Willis said he and his family have always had an interest in tracking weather and were happy to provide space for a monitoring station when Tapio contacted them. Willis, who primarily farms corn, peas and hay, said that timely weather information is essential.

“It’s huge when it comes to timing for planting and harvesting, especially with hay,” Willis said. “If we know what’s coming we’ll run around the clock if needed.”

The network’s online weather information is available to the public free of charge at http://weather.wsu.edu . Users must register to access detailed information, and once registered they can log in at any time to view or download detailed data.