Good Fruit Grower

November 2012

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New Technology Weather forecasting TESTED WSU's AgWeatherNet hopes to provide forecasts as well as current weather reports. by Geraldine Warner gWeatherNet, Washington State University's auto- mated weather station network, is testing a national forecasting model as a tool to predict weather systems, such as hail or freezes, in the state's tree fruit and grape growing regions. AgWeatherNet, a network of 137 automated weather stations across Washington State, provides current weather conditions updated every 15 minutes, but does not predict air temperature, dew points, wind speed or wind direction. Adding weather predictions would allow growers to make more informed decisions, says Dr. Gerritt Hoogenboom, network director. The forecasts could be integrated into models relating to growing degree days, irrigation scheduling, cold hardi- ness of grapes, and pest and disease development that are available through the AgWeatherNet. Hoogenboom hopes to use the state-of-the-art Weather Research and Forecasting model as a tool for predicting extreme weather in Washington. The WRF is a computer program created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and other organizations and universities in the United States and abroad. The WRF model can provide hourly weather predic- tions at a high resolution. Hoogenboom and his col- leagues are evaluating how accurately it would have predicted three actual freezes experienced in Washington in late February, early April, and late October 2011. Pre- dictions are made on a grid basis. Because of Washing- ton's varied terrain, with abrupt changes in elevation, the scientists intend to use a grid as small as two miles square. This requires a large amount of computing power, and data are being processed on a high-performance Gerritt Hoogenboom computer purchased with part of a $95,000 grant from the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission. Preliminary results show that model performed well for low elevations in eastern Washington and for 24- to 48- hour predictions. However, it did poorly for longer-term predictions and for medium- and high-elevation sites. Hoogenboom said results were encouraging, though coming up with accurate predictions in central Washing- ton's varied terrain is a challenge. "I know everyone wants to have an accurate forecast for two weeks out, but the real- ity is it's not possible right now. What we're trying to do is add value to what we currently provide in AgWeatherNet." Hoogenboom said the project will continue for at least two more years, as scientists develop protocols to improve the accuracy of the WRF model in Washington. • GREAT LAKE S FRUIT, VEGETABLE & FARM MARKET MICHIGAN GREENHOUSE GROWERS EXPO Find us on Fa 32 NOVEMBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Find us on Facebook The PREM IER show for fruit and vegetable growers, greenhouse grower s and farm marketer s! One registration fee covers both conferences and the trade show! Online registration starts Sept. 17. Register by Nov. 15 to save on registration fees. Visit for registration, program and other information. Call 734-677-0503 for registration questions or to receive registration and program information by mail. Call 616-794-0492 for information on exhibiting in the trade show. acebook • WWW.GLEXPO.COM DEC. 4-6, 2012 W AGWEATHERNET will work with mobile devices ashington State University's AgWeatherNet is a state-of-the-art automated weather data collection and decision support system. It provides a Web-based suite of weather data and decision-support tools designed to help producers, consultants, irrigation managers, and others in agribusiness. AgWeatherNet, one of the biggest public weather systems in the nation, has a network of 137 weather stations located throughout Washington. Most are located in the irrigated regions of eastern Washington, but the network has expanded significantly in recent years in western Washington and dryland regions of the state. AgWeatherNet's meteorologists pore over incoming data looking for signs of cold snaps, heat waves, and wet spells in order to provide alerts. AgWeatherNet can be accessed online at The Web site is compatible with mobile devices, and the mobile version will auto- matically load on most smartphones or any device with a Web browser. To get started, users need to create an account, enter the location they want to see weather data for, and configure their alert options. Weather or pest alerts can be delivered by voice mail, e-mail, or text message. Video tutorials are on the site. Users can add widgets to their own Web sites to give up-to-the minute information about local weather. Organizations providing financial support for the AgWeatherNet include WSU, Washington State Com- mission on Pesticide Registration, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, American Farmland Trust, Washington Wine Industry Foundation, Wash- ington Wine Advisory Board, and the Washington Potato Commission. Grants have also been received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, call (509) 786-9367 or e-mail access AgWeatherNet, go to or mobile. —G. Warner

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