Washington State University recently added several weather station sites in the state to help predict patterns and help wheat production.
The university’s AgWeatherNet team installed stations in Harrington, Hartline, Lacrosse and Garfield.
Another station was installed last week in Stevenson.
The final five stations bring the total number of stations up to 50, with four located in Oregon.
Gerritt Hoogenboom, AgWeatherNet director in Prosser, Wash., said the new stations improve coverage in Eastern Washington.
Most stations are located on farms or orchards.
The researchers visit each station at least once every four months for maintenance.
The stations are 6 feet by 6 feet, and stand about 10 feet tall.
Hoogenboom said the system is moving beyond the tree fruit industry as other commodities begin to show interest in the weather stations.
For the wheat stations, Hoogenboom received a list of potential farm locations from the WSU breeding program on the university campus in Pullman, Wash. The university is currently only adding stations where it has support.
“We get a lot of emails saying, ‘We’d like to have a weather station,’ but we just don’t have the financial resources to do that,” Hoogenboom said.
The new stations are supported by a grant from the Washington Grain Commission. The Stevenson location fulfilled a commitment made by the program prior to Hoogenboom’s arrival in 2010.
Discussions are underway for a station to support cranberry growers on the western Washington coast and there are conversations about installing stations on Whidbey Island and in Dayton, Wash., he said.
The AgWeatherNet stations gather information about air temperature, humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, barometric pressure, soil temperature and soil moisture profiles, among others.
Stations are a self-contained, stand-alone unit with sensors connected to a data logger. Every 15 minutes, the data logger calculates and stores a summary of weather conditions- temperature, humidity, average windspeed, etc. The researchers in Prosser access data from each station, process it and send it to a data server in Pullman.
Hoogenboom hopes to provide more models and decision support tools, including a model to make short-term weather predictions and a long-term climate outlook.
The stations are used during the spring season as an alert for frost protection in the Yakima Valley. Hoogenboom is working with WSU Extension irrigation specialist Troy Peters to develop an irrigation tool.
A cold hardiness tool is on the AgWeatherNet website. The researchers are working to implement a wheat yield prediction tool based on residual moisture in the soil.
Researchers are working to reach a point where the program can send farmers a text message or email on their smart device if the weather station reports temperatures dropping below 35 degrees Fahrenheit or if moisture levels require irrigation, Hoogenboom said.
WSU spring wheat breeder Mike Pumphrey said in a press release that researchers and growers will benefit from the additional weather and climate data in the Eastern Washington region.
“Many diseases and traits are influenced by weather and the environment,” Pumphrey stated. “Accurate information will allow us to gain a better understanding of drought tolerance, heat tolerance and other wheat productivity traits.”