In agriculture, weather is the most important factor in determining the success of a cropping or grazing season. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s website features the Alberta Climate Information Service (ACIS) an interactive tool that helps producers, farm consultants, and researchers.
ACIS is a network of more than 350 weather stations around the province reporting weather conditions in near, real-time. It includes detailed archival information that goes back to 1961. “With more than 350 weather stations to choose from, you should be able to find one close enough to you to be approximate to the conditions you are experiencing,” says Harry Brook, crop specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre.
Elements covered by this network include precipitation accumulated and recent, temperature extremes and average, relative humidity, wind speeds and directions, solar radiation, snow depth, soil temperature at four different depths, and soil moisture as a percentage of field capacity. These elements allow comparisons to long term averages.
ACIS includes is a large amount of data on long-term averages for air temperatures, maximums and minimums, growing degree days at base 0 degrees, 2 degrees, and 5 degrees, and frost probabilities in 1 degree increments from 0 C to -5 C. The program also includes a wind chill index, and current weather radar can also be accessed.
ACIS also features a large collection of maps that look at drought indexes, fire danger, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. Detailed moisture information is found for Southern Alberta through the Irrigation Management Climate Information Network (IMCIN) to help with irrigation decisions.
“Soil moisture and temperatures are useful in predicting when soils should be ready to start seeding and decide if moisture is sufficient to allow germination,” says Brook. “Temperatures and wind speeds can help in deciding when it is safe to spray pesticides or help in diagnosing the possibility of spray drift.”
“There is also a Fusarium head blight risk map. Using the preceding weather conditions, it can predict how likely it is that fusarium head blight will establish in your vicinity and help in timing for any fungicide application,” explains Brook. “Plans are also underway developing insect pest prediction maps for some of our most damaging insect pests.
“Growing degree days, potato heat units, and corn heat units for localities are useful in estimating if various crops can be successfully grown. Also, these average numbers combined with frost probabilities are useful tools in estimating if there is enough time left in the growing season for a crop to mature,” he adds.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is hosting a webinar on the many uses of ACIS on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.