Farm weather forecasting becomes tailor made
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has developed a weather forecasting service tailor made for a farmer's individual farm. It was launched at this year's Fieldays.
Called FarmMet, the forecasting system provides farmers with accurate up to date forecasts specific to their property. It was available to farmers on a subscription basis.
Niwa meteorologist Chris Brandolino said farmers enter their location and then their software assigns the nearest weather station to that farm and tailors a forecast.
Niwa had 250-300 of these stations across New Zealand and the system gives farmers precise information and updated temperatures every two hours.
"It's a specific forecast for that location. You're getting more precise information in terms of rainfall and wind, which helps with decision support," he said.
Niwa trialled the system with farmers to get their feedback last year. Brandolino said some of them had become addicted to it.
"They log in on the morning and for them they now know what's going on in advance on their farm."
It helped farmers weigh up risk and make decisions on day-to-day farming practices such as when to move stock, when to irrigate or spray or when to protect against potentially damaging weather like heavy rainfall, snow, frost or high winds.
The forecast was delivered straight to a farmers computer, tablet or smart phone and NIWA could create a different forecast for properties as little as 12 kilometres apart. It gave farmers two-day, six-day and two-week forecasts, a three-month outlook and provided data on historical rainfall.
Its measurement of air temperatures made it a valuable tool for fruit growers and viticulturists for predicting frosts at critical times of the year.
Niwa chief scientist Murray Poulter said farmers increasingly relied on accurate weather forecasts to plan key work programmes on their properties.
"FarmMet is a precise, easy-to-use tool that can help farmers with weather-related decisions they need to make on the farm. It uses scientific data to deliver local weather information and a range of forecasts from two to 15 days out."