Agro-Climate Monitor

App taps historical climate data for Texas growers

The Department of Agriculture has developed an app that accesses historical information about the climate so as farmers, certified crop advisers and extension agents can better plan for the current year.

"On a year-to-year basis, farming can be kind of a seat-of-the-pants affair," Steven Mauget of the Agricultural Research Service told the American Society of Agronomy. "The general idea was that by comparing the development of this year's conditions with those of the past decade, producers might be able to get a better intuitive feel for how the current year might play out weather-wise and yield-wise."

The data feed for the JavaScript-powered Agro-Climate Monitor web app comes from Texas Tech University’s mesonet weather station network in the 10-county area surrounding Lubbock, Texas. It displays continuously updated information on precipitation -- measured every five minutes --  as well as soil temperature, soil water content and leaf wetness, which are recorded every 15 minutes. It uses this data to estimate cumulative growing degree days, cumulative precipitation and first freeze dates.

With that insight producers can monitor planting conditions, track crop development and estimate a growing season’s typical duration. By displaying seasonal climate variability during the previous 10 years, it also provides estimates of the range of an upcoming season’s climate outcomes based on persistence, according to ARS.

"I think this work shows a way that mesonet data can be used as an applied climate resource," Mauget said. "As water becomes less abundant in Texas aquifers, farmers are becoming more dependent on rainfall so it's important for them to have more knowledge about their growing environment."

More information on the Agro-Climate Monitor is available here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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