Benefits seen in Wheatbelt radar

Bran ThompsonThe West Australian
Benefits seen in Wheatbelt radar
Camera IconBenefits seen in Wheatbelt radar Credit: The West Australian

Doppler radar coverage of the Wheatbelt would deliver a $108 million windfall to farmers over the next two decades as well as untold benefits in emergency services and environmental management, according to an independent report prepared for the State Government.

The report makes an overwhelming case for investment in the technology, which allows far greater accuracy in forecasting and increased lead times for weather warnings.

It estimates a return to farmers of almost $9 for every $1 spent on doppler radar coverage and also makes a $100 million-plus case for investment in an expanded network of mobile phone towers.

The report said three doppler radars could be installed and run at a cost of $19 million over the next 20 years. In that period, the radars would deliver savings of up to $198 million by limiting chemical overspray and yield losses.

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Doppler coverage is regarded as a key to attracting major crop insurers into the WA market.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston has raised the case for doppler coverage with Cabinet colleagues as well as Federal MPs.

Mr Baston is expected to support a business case for some Royalties for Regions funding.

"WA exports 80 per cent of its grain and is competing for market share on the world stage," he said.

"While our competitors enjoy extensive doppler coverage, we remain the only State in Australia to have none. By contrast, the US has 150 dopplers and coverage that extends across their entire land mass twice over."

The report estimated 122 additional mobile towers costing about $1 million each were needed to service the identified farming areas. It said the towers would deliver $238 million in benefits to farm businesses over 20 years.

The report said that with farms growing in size it was important to have precise weather forecasting and the latest high-tech tools.

"Doppler radar images enable farmers to make timely strategic and tactical decisions around time of sowing, chemical and fertiliser applications and movement of stock," it said.

Mr Baston said the Federal Government had consistently overlooked WA on doppler coverage.

"I believe we need at least six dopplers to cover the whole agricultural region, but if we can get funding for at least three that will cover the key parts of the Wheatbelt and that's a start," he said.

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