New rain gauge system will inform farmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New rain gauge system will inform farmers

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Wet winter weather gave south Georgia farmers headaches. Now new research being conducted here may help them better predict rain amounts and figure out when they can get in their fields.

The big problem was that too much rain meant the soils stayed wetter for a longer period of time, and that meant that you couldn't plant. But now there's a way to figure out how much rain has fallen on fields.

South Georgia farmers like the usually abundant rains that we see, but sometimes nature is a little too generous. When that happens, farmers are left with nothing more than empty, waterlogged fields. But when the rain ends, when will the fields be ready? This device may be able to answer that question.

"They are tipping bucket rain gauges," said Kofikume Dzotsi of the University of Florida. "We are installing 50 of these rain gauges."

Dzotsi is part of team of researchers installing the gauges in fields throughout Dougherty, Mitchell and Baker Counties. It's part of research that's being conducted by the Southeast Climate Consortium, a group of eight universities.

"They do some research to help farmers."

All the gauges are needed because rainfall can be quite variable, as this graphic shows. While the airport has picked up less than 10 inches of rain, the gauge at ASU has seen almost 12 inches and at WALB, we've seen nearly twelve and a half inches.

That means that farmers need a better way idea of how much rainfall to expect.

 "One of the goals of this project is to be able to account for that variability."

And all of the data that's collected will be placed into a model to help improve the general forecast that you see every night. The researchers want to be able to bring rainfall prediction down to the farm level.

"So the farmer will be able to know the variability on his or her own farm."

While good research takes time to complete... "We need the gauges to be in place for a minimum of two years."

When these researchers are done traveling around the area, it's the farmers who will benefit, by having a better idea of when to put their crops in the ground.

While they've decided on the number of gauges to install, they haven't found all of the locations yet.

If you want one of the gauges on your land, and you live in one Dougherty, Baker or Mitchell County, you can call your local extension agent and ask how to get one.

The researchers plan to publish quarterly reports. Those results will be made available to landowners who have the gauges installed.