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Weather Data from Enviro-weather Program

Beth Bishop
MSU Enviro-weather Coordinator

Do you need quick access to current weather conditions, historical weather data, or future forecasts? Do you know where to find current degree-day accumulations, predictions on when to cut alfalfa and recommendations on when to irrigate corn or soybeans?  You can find this, and much more, from MSU’s Enviro-weather Program (www.enviroweather.msu.edu).

Enviro-weather collects data continuously from a network of local stations throughout Michigan. Stations transmit data regularly (every 30 minutes during the growing season) to a central server on campus. The information is processed and used to produce summaries, predictions and decision-making tools for agricultural producers, natural resource managers, and other Michiganders whose businesses and lives are influenced by the weather. 

Enviro-weather Data Inputs
A network of 64 weather stations is the backbone of Enviro-weather. Each station has identical sensors that measure standard weather observations (air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and rainfall) along with sensors that measure conditions specifically of agricultural interest (solar radiation, soil temperature at 2 inches and 4 inches, soil moisture at 12 inches and 24 inches, and leaf wetness). All stations are installed and positioned so they gather weather data representative of the area. 

Station maintenance and sensor calibration is a priority for Enviro-weather, since the accuracy of the data depends on station maintenance. The Enviro-weather website (www.enviroweather.msu.edu) provides users with decision-making tools and weather information (current, historical, and forecasts) produced from data collected by local weather stations and National Weather Service stations and forecasts.

What can Enviro-weather Offer to Dairy Producers?
Provided are an alfalfa cutting model (predicts optimal timing for first alfalfa cutting), an alfalfa weevil development model (predicts feeding damage from alfalfa weevil), a water-use tool for corn and soybeans (determines when irrigation is needed), maps of Michigan showing degree-day accumulation ([base 50] to date and in comparison with “normal”), rainfall and temperature summaries and forecasts, and much more. 

Put It to Use
To access the Enviro-weather home page, type “www.enviroweather.msu.edu” into your web browser. You will see a map of Michigan with Enviro-weather stations shown as dots. Move your mouse pointer over each dot to display current weather information for that station. 
To see more detailed weather information and summaries for a station, click the station dot. The “Station Page” opens (see Figure 1) and gives you access to “Weather Observations and Summaries” tools. The “Soil Conditions” tool displays daily minimum and maximum temperatures and moisture levels at two different soil depths. The “Temperature and Rainfall Summary” shows the average, minimum and maximum air temperatures -- precipitation -- degree-day accumulations during the previous 2 weeks. The “Overnight Temperatures” tool lists hourly average temperatures during the previous night for all stations in the area and low temperature forecasts for the upcoming night. Other tools include forecast data for the upcoming week.

To see weather conditions for last week, last month or last year, select “Change Date Range” at the top of the table and enter the desired date(s). Use the pull-down menu at the top of the page to access information from another weather station.  

Enviro-weather also has tools for specific crops. Click on “Field Crops” from the “Tools For” bar near the top of the screen to go to the “Commodities Page” (Figure 2). The same weather summaries are shown, but the page also includes additional, specialized tools and links to resources for different crops (alfalfa, corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.). Click on the crop folder in the left sidebar to display available crop development, pest management, and water-use tools and other resources for that crop. 

Some tools of special interest for Michigan dairy producers include:  

1.  The Alfalfa Cutting Model predicts the optimal time for first cutting of alfalfa (approximately 40% NDF, which corresponds to 750 GDD base 41 F according to Allen et al.).

2.  The Alfalfa Weevil development model is a new tool that predicts when to expect feeding damage from alfalfa weevil. The data can be used to make decisions about pest scouting and treatment.

3.  Crop ET (evapotranspiration) estimates for corn and soybeans help with irrigation decisions.  Users specify crop type and emergence dates and Enviro-weather produces a table showing temperature, rainfall and potential evapotranspiration (PET) for the crop, along with 1 week of forecast data. If cumulative PET is higher than cumulative rainfall, the “PET today” cell is shaded red indicating a net water deficit for the crop. 

4. An Irrigation Scheduling tool recently was updated and improved (listed under “Water-use Tools”). 

There are also a links to resources such as the Field Crops Pest/Crop News, New Ag Network, and MSU’s IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Resources. 
Enviro-weather also provides data to help you maintain accurate and complete records to comply with Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). Record keeping requirements include weather conditions during pesticide applications and manure applications. You can access and print historical weather data, current weather data, and future forecasts for the nearest Enviro-weather station to comply with these requirements.
More Things to Come
Enviro-weather will soon be adding several additional tools, including predictive models for western corn rootworm and black cutworm, and a manure management tool that will allow dairy farmers to print out precipitation forecasts for their records. 

We invite you to check out Enviro-weather’s tools and services. We continue to grow and develop and are adding continuously to our suite of tools and stations. Enviro-weather exists to serve you and Michigan dairy producers. We want to be responsive to your ideas and concerns. Please direct your questions, comments and ideas to me (Beth Bishop): 517-432-6520 or bishopb@msu.edu .

Enviro-weather is a collaborative project between the Michigan Climatological Resources Program and the MSU Integrated Pest Management Program and is supported by Project GREEEN, the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU Extension, private donors, and MSU Departments of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology, Forestry, Geography, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology along with HortSystems, Inc.

1.  Allen, M., R. Leep, and J. Andresen. Timing Spring Alfalfa Harvest - The Final Word? In Forage Information Systems @ Michigan State University - Extension. http://web1.msue.msu.edu/fis/extension_documents/Timing_First_Spring_Alfalfa_Harvest.htm.

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