Farmers in Oregon will soon have a new tool to help them decide when to apply manure to their fields.

With the help of a $44,000 water quality grant from the EPA, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is installing 10 automated weather stations throughout Western Oregon. ODA and the Oregon Dairy Farmers’ Association plan to use the real-time weather data to help create a “manure spreading index” that producers can use to make more confident decisions about when to spread manure.

According to Jim Little, ODA meteorologist, once the weather stations are installed and the index is complete a farmer in a specific location will be able to tap into the data through ODA’s Web site to determine if conditions are “optimum” for him to spread manure today. And if not, the system will tell him when conditions might improve in his area.

In addition to using the weather data to help prevent runoff, producers also will be able to use the weather information to determine if conditions are right for an air inversion to occur. An air inversion would trap manure odors in one area if they spread on that day.  So waiting a day or two until those atmospheric conditions change would make for much happier neighbors.

Installation of the 10 weather stations, which are located up and down the Willamette Valley and along the Oregon Coast, should be completed this summer. The weather stations will deliver up-to-the-minute information on temperature, humidity, wind direction, wind speed, and rainfall. And by the time the rainy season returns this fall, the system should be fully operational.

In addition to dairy producers needing to decide when to apply manure, crop producers in the area will be able to tap into the data to get weather information for their precise area to help make management decisions such as when to apply pesticides, plant, and harvest crops.

Oregon isn’t the first state to put this type of technology to work. Oklahoma has 119 such weather monitoring stations — one in each county — which producers can tap into for real-time weather data where they live. And in California, weather stations have been used to help establish a “powdery mildew index” to help vintners know when to apply fungicide products on wine grapes to protect from the mildew.