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WSU’s AgWeatherNet Expands Capability, Demonstrates Disease-prediction Accuracy

PROSSER, Wash. – AgWeatherNet has released three new disease models this week. Growers can access the models by logging into AgWeatherNet at http://weather.wsu.edu and clicking on “Regional Disease Maps.”

AgWeatherNet is a system of 150 weather-data stations across that state that helps growers make irrigation and pest control decisions. The system is operated by Washington State University.

The three new models predict the onset of powdery mildew diseases of cherries, grapes and hops, some of the most problematic diseases of these crops.

“The AgWeatherNet system predicted a primary infection for grapevine powdery mildew during the rains of May 21-22,” said Gary Grove, director of AgWeatherNet. “The predicted date of disease onset was May 26, and we encountered our first mildew symptoms on untreated vines on May 30. Fortunately, on June 1, we visited vineyards in the Prosser vicinity and near Alderdale, Paterson and Walla Walla, and encountered no mildew, so it appears that commercial fungicide programs are working.”

A wireless network of 120 weather stations distributed throughout the state, AgWeatherNet is analyzing near real-time data to aid growers in irrigation and pest- and disease-control decisions.

Previously available only to subscribers, AgWeatherNet provides the people of Washington with air and soil temperatures, solar radiation, wind speed, humidity and precipitation collected at 150 weather-data recording stations around the state. In most cases, the information is updated every 15 minutes.

Because of its diverse topography, weather monitoring in Washington requires innovation and improvisation.

“When mature,” said Grove, “AgWeatherNet will consist of a combination of remote weather monitoring stations, a number of which monitor regional conditions–the climatic conditions of neighborhoods and townships–and site-specific stations within orchards, vineyards or potato fields. They will be linked together by an aggregation of mountaintop repeaters, cell towers, satellites and, by far most importantly, very dedicated support personnel.”

“They make possible the accurate monitoring of field conditions, make those conditions available to the public, and make possible the development of value-added products such as the powdery mildew disease prediction models,” Grove said.

Financial support from the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Washington Wine Advisory Committee, and Washington Hop Commission made the development of these models possible.

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