It is just about time for local farmers to start irrigating. This season, some growers have the opportunity to reduce how much water they use. Six additional AgriMet weather stations have been installed throughout East Idaho, and they provide up-to-date weather information, including everything from temperatures and winds to moisture, pressure and more. Growers could use the data to determine irrigation.
"It calculates evapotranspiration which is how much water a crop is using during the day time," said Tim Pella, program manager for Idaho Falls Barley Operations. Evapotranspiration has to do with water evaporating from the soil and transpiring from the plant.
Pella works with Anheuser-Bush InBev, the company best known for Budweiser beer. The company buys barley from local growers like Brad Reed. Reed's farm hosts a new weather station in Osgood.
The beer company partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to install and maintain the weather station. The weather station is solar-powered and requires very little upkeep.
"As a company we have always been very interested in conserving our natural resources through our recycling programs and water use. In the past five years, our breweries have been reducing water consumption 32 percent on a per-barrel basis," said Pella.
Reed's farm will be a part of an experiment to see if these stations can help conserve even more water. They will keep an eye on two similar fields for the test.
"One will be managed completely using AgriMet data, the other will be managed as he would normally irrigate. We are doing this with three different growers in east Idaho and we will see what the results are. We are hoping the farmers might save a little money on electricity costs," said Pella.
Even though he has not begun irrigating, Reed says he is looking forward to the data.
"It's already been useful to us. We've given the website to several people who help us here on the farm. Our aerial applicators, it's great for them to know what the wind is doing at all times," said Reed.
The Bureau of Reclamation has weather stations all across the northwest, and the data are available at: http://www.usbr.gov/pn/agrimet/