WEATHER is one of the most important determinants of farm income.
The ability to change it is minimal to zero.
The ability to manage its effects is getting better, as is the accuracy of weather forecasts.
Telstra CountryWide (TCW) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have launched an internet weather service, called PremiumWeather, tailored to the farm sector to aid that management.
PremiumWeather provides specialised weather forecasts at a local level to enable farmers to, they hope, manage their weather-reliant operations better.
Farmers hoping to spray will be able to pick up wind forecasts. Grape growers ready to pick will be able to use rain forecasts.
The PremiumWeather site provides detailed, region-specific two and seven day forecasts and commentary, weather alerts, rainfall probabilities and forecast amounts, frost warnings, dew points, various satellite maps and radar images.
At $187 for a three month subscription and $660 for a 12 month subscription, it will be competing with a number of free web-based weather products for patronage.
TCW and BoM argue that the service is superior to other internet-based weather services, and therefore worth the money.
While other services publish the figures created by computer modelling, the PremiumWeather service will use the expertise of 30 meteorologists to interpret the weather data to provide a local area forecast for each region, TCW marketing director Brett Riley said.
The Bureau's forecasts were also generated locally, rather than US-based computer models, BoM special services unit managing director Bruce Gunn said.
"It has been specifically designed to meet the needs of those people whose livelihoods depends on the weather," he said.
Currently broadacre and viticulture services are available, but more modules (probably dairy and horticulture) and additional forecasting tools would be added over time, he said.
The weather service is based on the BoM's FARMWEATHER fax product, but uses the internet to provide more detailed and up to date information.
Demonstrations can be viewed at www.telstra.com/info/premiumweath er
*The author flew to the launch of PremiumWeather as a guest of TCW.