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Weather Data for Farmers

The Hudson Valley Farm Hub is contributing data to a national weather network

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With weather becoming increasingly unpredictable, especially under the realities of climate change, accurate and up-to-date weather data is ever more essential for farmers. 

Enter NEWA (short for the Network for Environment and Weather Applications), a network of nearly a thousand weather stations across the U.S. owned by farmers, commodity groups, agribusinesses, private consultants, and land grant universities. The network, which is part of New York State Integrated Pest Management at Cornell University, also includes National Weather Service airport locations. The Farm Hub has been part of the network since it began collecting weather data in 2017. The station was replaced earlier this year after it broke.  

Sweet corn is drenched in rainwater. Photo by Jenny Linger.

The network is especially critical and timely as weather is increasingly unpredictable, an apparent effect of climate change. The Hudson Valley region, for example, has seen record rainfall over the past season. Jeff Arnold, director of farm production, notes that storm systems are holding more water, lasting longer, and come not only with heavy rainfall but also high winds and hail.

In 2022, a tornado and a macroburst touched down on the Hudson Valley Farm Hub and a neighboring farm in the Hurley Flats, causing significant crop damage. There are greater extremes of wet and dry periods. For example, from June 12 to July 12 the farm saw 9.2 inches of rain with significant rainfall events on 14 of those 30 days. In the month prior it saw a scant 1.3 inches of rain with significant rainfall on just three of those 30 days. 

“These dramatic swings are unfortunately becoming the new normal,” says Arnold. 

NEWA provides a five-day forecast updated hourly on everything from temperature and humidity to precipitation and wind speed. In addition, the platform includes additional weather resources such as a Degree Day Calculator and All Weather Data Query, a search engine that runs back to 1996 when the network first started. NEWA was founded in 1995 as the Northeast Weather Association and is run as a collaboration between Cornell University and the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. 

“You can think of this as your crop forecast, so you watch the 6 p.m. news at night and they give you the five-day forecast of the weather, that’s exactly what we do for insects and diseases,” says Dan Olmstead NEWA’s coordinator. In addition, users can compare years and all data is updated automatically.  

Fields of green beans are soaked in the water from heavy rains. The photo was taken the first week of July. Photo by Jenny Linger.

Created with farmers in mind, another highlight of the platform is a suite of Crop and IPM Tools. Users can search for the most common pests under specific vegetables, fruits, field crops, grapes, and ornamentals and attain data that connects specific weather (temperature, rainfall) with the various growth stages of the pests. 

A field crops farmer, for instance, can search for specific pests that could affect their yields. The platform provides weather data and pest development data so that farmers can plan accordingly when it comes to the timing of seeding, planting, transplanting, and harvesting. 

“It’s about risk assessment and risk management–we are also asking what the existing needs are for insect and disease risk assessment, and how we can better support small farmers,” Olmstead says. 

The network was inspired by the mission to better support New York’s apple industry. New York is a top-producing state and weather patterns have a significant impact on production and earnings. 

Since 1996 the network has expanded from a handful of weather stations in New York’s Finger Lakes region to stations in some 26 states. Many of the stations are on the East Coast with additional stations throughout the Midwest and a handful in Utah. In the case of Utah, growers requested to join NEWA for apple crop load management tools and irrigation modeling.

The weather station (attached to a post) provides up-to-date weather data from the farm. Devin Pickering/Oceans 8 Films

Although there are 1,054 registered (as of July) many more take advantage of the open-access nature of NEWA which allows anyone to use the platform; the network is designed with farmers in mind but can be accessed by anybody.

The peak of usage coincides with the prime of the growing season in the Northeast, namely between May through July, with several hundred visitors a day.  

Going forward, the goal is to continue to expand the number of weather stations but also to find ways to better serve small or beginning farmers who are historically underserved. Olmstead and his team are also always making sure the platform is up to date, particularly with the fast-changing weather.  

If you are interested in learning more about the network contact Dan Olmstead at [email protected].

Amy Wu

Q&A with Anne Bloomfield 

Anne Bloomfield leads the Applied Farmscape Ecology Program at the Farm Hub. The program maintains the weather station in partnership with the farm operations team. 

Q: What was the impetus for installing a new weather station? 
After years of collecting valuable weather data at the Farm Hub, a strong gust of wind cracked the support post for our weather station, causing it to fall to the ground. After many years of service, we had to retire our old weather station. 

Q: What are some of the key features of the new weather station? 
A: The new weather station is very similar and includes the same weather readings as our old station. The old Rainwise dashboard that folks were used to is no longer compatible with our new station. So, users will notice some changes to the dashboard. Moreover, all our archived data are still accessible via the NEWA platform as well as pest and disease forecasting tools and a degree day calculator. 

Q: How does the weather station help you in your work? 
A: The weather station is used for so many different purposes in the community and here at the Farm Hub. Our crop production teams use the weather station to monitor rainfall and temperature for the timing of field activities such as irrigation, planting, and cultivation. They also consult the wind speed and direction data to determine the best conditions for applying spray applications for crop materials such as fertilizer and organic pesticides. In our work in the ecology program, we use these data to help in our monitoring of crop pests and diseases. We also use the weather data to create and maintain a long-term weather dataset for researchers and others to access. Our temperature and rainfall data also help us to forecast when we might expect to see certain organisms such as clam shrimp that emerge under specific rainfall and temperature conditions. Finally, the Applied Farmscape Ecology Research Collaborative at the Farm Hub includes nine research projects. A number of the researchers have an interest in connecting weather patterns and weather data to their projects. For example, our project investigating turtle movements and another looking at soil microbial and fungal diversity. 

Q: How do you hope it will help local/regional ecologists? 
A: Our hope is, in addition to the uses here at the Farm Hub for production and research, that folks in the community will access our weather data for a wide variety of needs whether that be farming, research, backyard gardeners, or even those who are just interested in current or historic weather data. We invite community members to access our weather data for any needs they may have. You can find a link to the weather station on our homepage.

Additional Information
If you are interested in joining the NEWA network, contact [email protected] 
If you are interested in creating a user profile and utilizing NEWA click here 
If you have questions on how to access the Farm Hub’s weather data via the Ambient Weather platform or NEWA, email Anne Bloomfield at [email protected] 

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