Team effort to develop weather warning system

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Jointly funded by the grain and cotton industries, the spray drift warning system is expected to be operational for the 2022–23 cropping season

Australian agricultural technology company Goanna Ag will develop a hazardous weather warning system in collaboration with two major research bodies, in a bid to help minimise spray drift.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) have jointly allocated $5.5 million to Goanna for the development of a system that will provide real-time weather data and alerts to growers and spray operators about the presence of temperature inversions.

Goanna Ag COO Tom Dowling, CRDC R&D manager Susan Maas and GRDC manager chemical regulation Gordon Cumming with a Goanna Ag weather station

Hazardous surface temperature inversions occur when air temperature increases with height from the ground surface, leaving a layer of cool air trapped below warm air. In this situation droplets can remain suspended in the inversion layer in concentrated form and be carried significant distances from the target area.

Currently regulations do not permit spraying agricultural chemicals when hazardous surface temperature inversions are present, meaning such a technology would help reduce risks for growers and contractors.

Under a five-year partnership, Goanna Ag will establish, operate and maintain a network of 100 Profiling Automatic Weather Stations (PAWS) across the grain and cotton regions of New South Wales and southern and central Queensland.

Able to provide real-time weather data every 10 minutes, the PAWS network will provide a 24-hour forecast broken into two hourly segments of hazardous temperature inversions periods, to help growers and spray contractors better plan their spray operations.

The PAWS warning system builds on breakthrough research, conducted and published by Dr Graeme Tepper and Dr Warwick Grace with support from GRDC and CRDC, and will be operational in time for the 2022–23 summer cropping season, the corporations say.

CRDC’s executive director Ian Taylor says the partnership with Goanna Ag builds on six years of collaborative research and development from the research and development corporations.

"Spray drift is a significant issue for agriculture and the wider community, and reducing its potential and impact is critical," he says.

"A study conducted by AgEcon found that the warning system could help reduce the impact of spray drift onto sensitive crops, while also increasing chemical efficacy and improving labour and machinery productivity on farm.

"In cotton alone, the warning system could help the industry avoid $40 million in losses and costs associated with spray drift over five years," he says.

Goanna Ag chief executive Alicia Garden says the new stations will complement its existing infrastructure across NSW.

"Our speciality is providing essential information to growers on-farm via ag sensing technology," she says.

"Through the creation of the hazardous weather warning system, we’ll be applying this knowledge and technology to the important issue of spray drift."

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