High Tech Help

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Weather monitoring is set to become more accurate, after the State Government pledged $300,000 towards establishing a further 30 weather stations across the South West.

The stations, which will record real-time data and relay it to the Department of Agriculture and Food's (DAFWA) website every 10 minutes, add to the rollout across the Wheatbelt of 35 automatic weather stations funded by Royalties for Regions in last year's State Budget.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said the network of stations would provide a level of weather information never seen before by growers. "The stations will provide information for crop, livestock and land management, from improving water use efficiency to making decisions on timing of fertiliser and herbicide applications," he said.

"They will be automatic and will update information every 10 minutes, which means a farmer can have a smartphone in their hand and update the closest weather information.

"Over time, the weather stations will create an online library of valuable historical data, which can be used for identifying trends and planning by farmers."

DAFWA grains industry executive director Peter Metcalfe said the new stations would assist in the case for insurance products. "Insurance companies say multi-peril would be a bit difficult but we could do weather derivatives or yield derivatives," he said.

"We would need a good network of weather stations to support that. The stations will support yield and weather insurance products."

Mr Metcalfe said DAFWA, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Department of Environment and Conservation and Fire and Emergency Services Authority had formed a working group to collaborate on the standard of the new stations.

"We've worked together to bring all of the weather stations that each of the agencies own up to the same standard across the board," he said.

He said the existing DAFWA weather stations, of which there were 51, would be brought up to the same standard as the new stations.

Despite working with BOM in designing the new system, Mr Metcalfe said the bureau's sites would be independent of DAFWA stations.

He said the new DAFWA stations would provide information on rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation.

Mr Redman said the plan was to eventually feed through rainfall information from the DAFWA stations to BOM's website.

The major funding announcement for DAFWA in this year's State Budget, Mr Redman said the stations would also help emergency services.

The 30 South West stations will be at locations from Pinjarra to Albany and will be identical to the Royalties for Regions-funded stations, one of which is already in use in Narembeen.

The Royalties for Regions-funded weather stations are expected to be up and running by July and the South West stations in October.

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