New weather stations in the Creston area to benefit local farmers, fruit growers

A climate change decision management tool, thanks to Fields Forward, will also help the ag sector stay informed

One of the new weather stations. (Photo by Elizabeth Quinn)

One of the new weather stations. (Photo by Elizabeth Quinn)

Farmers and fruit growers in the Creston Valley will soon benefit from a new weather station network and climate change tools to stay informed on climate events.

In 2021, Fields Forward Society looked into developing weather station software. Their advocacy work, supported by the Columbia Basin Trust, led to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to fund the system.

Five new provincially funded weather stations have been installed on private properties in the Creston Valley to record and measure data such as air temperature, relative humidity, vapour pressure, barometric pressure, rainfall, wind speed and gust, wind direction, solar radiation, leaf wetness, and nearby lightning strikes.

The B.C. government is providing $375,000 over the next three years towards the hardware purchase, installation, maintenance, and programming of the new weather stations as well as expansion of the BC Decision Aid System (DAS).

BC DAS provides easy-to-use technology to fruit growers to help make decisions on how best to combat pests and disease in their orchards. It has been used in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valley to maximize fruit production.

With the system expanding to the Kootenays, the B.C. government hopes it will help create a more resilient food system and support the sector to become more competitive globally.

“Ensuring we have a strong tree-fruit sector that is resilient to climate change is important to our government, and we are working collaboratively to achieve this,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food.

“By expanding the use of this world-class technology, we are getting important information into the hands of Creston Valley growers, so they can continue to provide British Columbians with their delicious and high-quality tree fruit.”

The weather stations will both support the agriculture sector and inform response efforts to pest populations as well as natural disasters related to climate change.

In recent years, the Creston Valley has been impacted by extreme weather events, including drought, heat domes, as well as excessive rainfall and flooding, all of which have led to severely damaged or destroyed crops. Mild winters have also led to an increase in pest populations.

“Since Creston has so many micro-climates, it will be helpful to predict what the weather will do in this valley,” said Freddy von Harling, manager of Piper Farms Ltd.

“It will make it easier for us to make a harvest decision for hay or grain. It also will help with application of herbicides. We will not have to guess anymore what the wind and humidity will do throughout the day.”

Each station’s data will be transmitted over a wireless low power wide area network (LPWAN), which is an open wireless protocol widely used for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Growers will be offered software training to help learn the system, and data will be available to anyone interested.

Thanks to Fields Forward Society and its supporting partners, a climate change decision management tool is also launching to complement the new weather station network and DAS.

Fields Forward is receiving $103,900 from the Columbia Basin Trust and $50,000 from the Regional District of Central Kootenay for the climate adaptation programs and services. Along with the province, funding between these organizations will also see up to 10 weather stations built.

The climate change decision management tool will enhance real-time weather data collection in the Creston Valley to support agricultural producers and public agencies in their efforts to adapt and respond to weather extremes and natural disasters.

Fields Forward Society has a mandate to support food and agricultural initiatives in the Creston Valley, including provision of education to farmers about new and emerging technologies and climate change adaptation tools. It currently operates the Kootenay Farms Regional Food Hub in Creston. For more information, visit www.fieldsforward.ca.

READ MORE: Nature Conservancy of Canada works to save endangered tree species in Creston area

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