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New weather stations to protect Riverland food producers

State-of-the-art localised automatic weather stations will be installed , which will help inform food producers’ decision making throughout South Australia's Riverland and Mallee regions.

The weather stations will provide local producers with key data to help with decision making around extreme weather events and to inform the safe use of agricultural chemicals and to protect crops from unintended spray drift. Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone says the weather stations will work together as a network across the region, also linking with the Mid North Mesonet weather stations.

“We’re proud to support this initiative of Ag Excellence Alliance to give producers essential, accurate weather data and warning systems to help manage for drought, potential extreme weather events and conditions likely to result in spray drift,” Minister Whetstone said. “These automated weather stations will inform decisions to protect our Riverland horticultural growers from spray drift, reducing the risk of damaged fruit and vegetables from agricultural chemicals."

The state government announced a $1.2 million grant from the Regional Growth Fund to Ag Excellence Alliance towards the project, at the Riverland Field Days.

“Estimates put on the potential loss in value of production from spray drift in the Riverland and Mallee areas if not addressed are in the order of $254 million per annum," Minister Whetstone said. “The automated weather stations fill an essential gap for producers – there are no other systems out there that can provide the quality of data this weather station network will provide. The project will create jobs through the construction phase and ongoing maintenance.”

Ag Excellence Alliance Chief Executive Mark Stanley said the automatic weather station network will deliver a weather monitoring and warning system which will provide highly accurate and targeted data on the development and presence of adverse conditions for spraying.

“The occurrence of crop damage resulting from spray drift has been an issue in the Riverland region for many years. There is considerable anxiety in the viticultural, wine and fresh fruit and vegetable industries about crop damage and product contamination,” Mr Stanley said. “The project will establish a state-of-the-art localised automatic weather station network across the Riverland and Mallee to link with the Mid North Mesonet.”

The project will be managed by Ag Excellence Alliance in association with Mallee Sustainable Farming, Grace Research, Agrilink and Peter Cousins Consulting. The $150 million ten-year Regional Growth Fund was established to unlock new economic activity in our regions, to deliver critical economic infrastructure that creates direct benefit across regional industries, and to strengthen regional communities.

Source: PIRSA press release

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