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Growers Glean Weather Details From Web Site
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather discussions are not new to farmers, but a recently developed Internet site can take those talks to the next level.
Even before El Nino put climate trends on the front pages, farmers were watching weather reports closely and making decisions accordingly. The Weather Center at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville provides historical and up-to-date data and products to help farmers make agricultural decisions. The center is a joint effort between the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
"Farmers are definitely interested in weather. It is time to have this type of information available on the Internet," said Charlie Estess, Northwest District program director for MSU's Extension Service. "Our job is not predicting weather, but we can tell farmers what has happened and what that means to the crops. There also are links to weather forecasts on the site."
The Internet site, located at http://www.ext.msstate.edu/anr/drec/drec.html offers one-stop shopping for weather information. Estess said the site helps growers after the loss of Stoneville's agricultural weather information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Bart Freeland, the weather and Geographic Information System coordinator for the center, said one advantage of the MSU data sites is that they are located in agricultural settings.
"Television station weather readings and most NOAA sites are in urban areas, and those readings can be different from rural locations," Freeland said. Currently, MSU gathers data in three counties across the Mississippi Delta -- Sharkey, Washington and Coahoma.
Farmers can review rainfall amounts, soil temperatures and heat unit information. Using that data plus individual planting dates, growers can predict a plant's stages throughout the growing season.
"Farmers shouldn't make decisions without on-site visits to their fields," Freeland said. "All programs require growers to verify the information with their own eyes."
John Coccaro, Sharkey County Extension agent, said the web site makes it easier for farmers to get more weather details than they could before it went on-line.
"Before this Internet site, farmers had to have all the weather gauges, check them daily and calculate the information by hand," Coccaro said. "There were very few farmers who had constant access to that kind of weather data. This site also has a 30-year history for growers to review."
Contact local Extension offices for assistance finding weather information.