New weather radar gives farmers eyes in the sky

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It’s hard to miss. The town of Rainbow’s latest landmark is pretty much a pot of gold for farmers.

“Absolutely fantastic, pity we couldn’t have had it 20 years ago,” says farmer Marshall Rodda.

Until now, Rodda’s decisions on whether to spread tens of thousands of dollars of fertiliser were based on information from a radar nearly 186 miles away.

“In the past, we’ve seen rain coming and we think we might go and either crop spray or go and spread urea and the rain hasn’t turned up,” says Rodda.

The new radar has been built by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology with funding from Victoria’s state government and the Australian Federal Government.

“The problem that we had in the Wimmera and Southern Mallee was a fairly weak spot in our radar signals and the new Wimmera radar based at Rainbow was put in to fill that hole, basically,” explains Andrew Tupper, from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Farmers now have much more precise information at their fingertips.

“It can sense a lot about what’s coming out of the sky, it can tell us whether it’s hail, it can tell us whether it’s rain, it can spot clouds of insects and gives a lot of intelligence about what’s going on,” explains Tupper.

“When you’ve got good information, reliable information that you can make good decisions on, it can really mean the difference between a break-even year to actually, a bumper year,” says farmer David Jochinke.

Now the Rainbow radar is up and running, the Bureau of Meteorology is looking to improve weather forecasting for farmers further north in The Mallee. 

It’ll soon announce a site for a new radar in nearby Mildura.

With winter crops due to be planted soon, Wimmera farmers are keeping an eye out for any sign of rain.

“This new one here will tell us it’s really on our doorstep and it’s time to go,” says Rodda.

Now all they can do is hope and pray the rain comes.

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