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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Agriculture meterologists at UK College of Ag, Kentucky Mesonet work to update farmers

By Aimee Nielson
Special to KyForward
 

When farmers want to know how the weather will impact their planting, growing and harvesting decisions, they can get a multitude of information from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Ag Weather Center website and the Kentucky Mesonet. Agriculture meteorologists Tom Priddy and Matt Dixon continually add new features to keep the state’s farmers and livestock producers in the know.
 
Recently Priddy and Dixon updated the center’s PointAgCast to include additional information that farmers had requested.
 

(Photo by Matt Barton)

(Photo by Matt Barton)

 
“The new forecasts include daily evapotranspiration, growing degree days for corn and a weekly summary for your farm,” Priddy said.
 
“We’ve fixed concerns some of our users had with time, and we believe this is a significant improvement over the previous version,” he said.
 
Evapotranspiration, said Priddy, is a general way for farmers to estimate how much moisture or water their farm is losing from evaporation and plant transpiration on a daily basis.
 
“If you compare that data to the daily rainfall totals, it can give you an idea as to whether or not irrigation is necessary and if so, how much,” he said. “This is available now for farms all across the state.”
 
The second new improvement is called the Irrigation Manager. The program digests data from the Kentucky Mesonet and the National Weather Service to obtain daily estimates of rainfall and evapotranspiration.
 
“As irrigation and crop water use gain more importance in Kentucky agriculture, weather forecasts that include evapotranspiration and growing degree days are extremely useful,” said Chad Lee, UK extension grain crops specialist. “In addition, these forecasts include both the chance of precipitation and the expected amount of precipitation.”
 
Lee said all of these can be extremely useful in scheduling irrigation events.
 
“While the PointAgCast forecasts rainfall and water loss, the Irrigation Manager helps farmers keep track of daily rainfall and water loss,” he said. “Both of these tools are very helpful to producers who are trying to maximize their water resources.”
 
The Kentucky Mesonet, developed and operated through the Kentucky Climate Center at Western Kentucky University, is a research-grade infrastructure for weather and climate monitoring that provides accurate data from an extensive network of monitoring sites across the state. It includes nearly 65 research-quality weather stations throughout Kentucky.
 
“This application leverages both the Kentucky Mesonet and the expertise and capacity of the UKAg Weather Center to provide a tool that enables farmers to make more informed crop management decisions,” said Stuart Foster, state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Mesonet.
 
To access these new features, please visit the UKAg Weather Center online here or go directly to the Irrigation Manager, here, or the PointAgCast, here.
 
Aimee Nielson is a writer for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
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