Thursday, August 10, 2006

Local Weather Stations Helping Farmers

Local Weather Stations Helping Farmers
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Five small, automated Suisun Valley weather stations are providing data to help farmers farm and perhaps even help the region gain recognition as a world-class grape-growing area.

A phone number to the automatic voice system on the stations and the information is available. Farmers can get up-to-date readings on temperatures, dew points, rainfall and other factors that affect their crops.

Or they can go to an Internet site to get daily, hourly and historical information.

About 15 farmers gathered Wednesday morning at the Clayton Road firehouse in Suisun Valley to learn more about the weather stations. Four of the stations are new, giving farmers a much better idea of what's happening in their specific area.

"The purpose for most farmers is irrigation management," said Paul Lum, irrigation specialist for the Solano Irrigation District.

Irrigated crops lose water to evaporation and from release of vapor by the vegetation. Farmers can use the weather data to decide how much water the crops need for replenishment.

Roger King of the Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association thinks the stations will do still more: Provide the data proving that the valley's microclimates are ideal for premium wine grapes. The valley has produced award-winning wines, but is still lacks the cache of nearby Sonoma and Napa counties.

"It's a sales tool," King said.

Suisun Valley cools down enough at night to allow the fruit to retain acids, King said. Yet he's heard people lump the valley with Bakersfield in terms of climate.

Suisun Valley has areas suited for warm-climate grapes and areas suited for cool-climate grapes, all within eight miles, King said. He expects the weather station data to help local grape growers make their case.

The four new stations cost about $5,000 each. The Solano County Agricultural Water Conservation Committee paid for one and the Suisun Valley Fund - a joint venture between the Solano Irrigation District and Fairfield - paid for the others.

Suisun Valley might seem like one location, in need of only one station. But the weather varies in ways that matter to crops.

For example, the north Abernathy Road station in June recorded an average high temperature of 86.5 degrees and an average low of 55.3 degrees. The station in upper Suisun Valley recorded an average high of 91.2 degrees and an average low of 55.5 degrees.

A sixth Suisun Valley weather station is located at Solano Community College and is run by the state.

Weather station data is available at the Web site Also, Don Schukraft of Western Weather Group talked at the presentation about how farmers can get weather forecasts from his company.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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