Within days of flicking the switch on the new Rainbow radar, its potential was clear to see
The radar accurately predicted good rainfall, across the region it covers, giving regional cereal, oilseed and pulse growers greater confidence in crop management decisions.
The Wimmera and southern Mallee had long missed out on accurate weather forecasts because radar stations at Mildura and Mount Gambier did not provide the precise data farmers needed.
"They flicked the switch and the rain came, it was perfect timing," Curyo's Chris Rickard said.
The $9.3 million radar, at Pullut, just south of Rainbow, can detect raindrops, hail, bushfire smoke, rain intensity and wind velocity.
The Doppler radar fills a gap in the radar network, giving farmers more accurate data to make more informed, time-critical decisions about harvesting, crop planting and the use of chemicals and fertilisers.
It will also provide better short-term rainfall forecasts and additional information for emergency services Bureau of Meteorology experts, during severe weather events.
The $9.3 million Rainbow Radar project is a partnership between the local community, Wimmera Development Association (WDA), the Victorian Government and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Mr Rickard said recent falls had come at a perfect time for his canola, beans, wheat, barley and lentil crops.
"It's beautiful, on top of the rain we have already had, over summer," Mr Rickard said.
"It's terrific to watch the rain coming, we could see, quite accurately, it wasn't far away."
Mr Rickard said he was too far away from the Mildura radar, which didn't give an accurate representation of what was happening.
"This one has shown us, from day one," he said.
"It's a good asset, already.
"We'll be able to have a bit more information at hand, before we put out urea, or waste money putting out chemicals if rain is coming."
Chris Kelly, Woomelang, said the radar was extremely accurate in predicting rain.
"I know governments spend millions and millions of dollars to help people and it's going to help farmers in the region to make better, and easier, decisions," Mr Kelly said.
He said it was important to have certainty around the weather,
"You know it's over the hill, you know it's that close, based on that sort of scientific information."
Tracy Dart, Warrackanbeal, said wheat, barley, lentils, canola and vetch, would be planted this season.
"Undoubtedly, the radar will allow us to see when there is a rain event on the way," Ms Dart said.
"It should help with top dressing planning and avoid wastage of urea.
"We are set up nicely, for cropping moisture now."
She said the farm recieved 31mm out of the recent rain event.
Matt Rohde, Lorquon, said it was great to know the area had a local radar.
"I'll be all over it, once the crop is in the ground," Mr Rohde said.
"Hopefully better accuracy will allow us to make better decisions around urea applications, in front of a rain event."
David Drage, who is north-east of Warracknabeal, said it had been "fantastic" watching the rain on the radar.
"We can see what's coming and its very high resolution, they have got their cailbrations pretty right," Mr Drage said.
He said the falls recorded by the radar also matched reports from on the ground.
"It'll give us a lot more confidence with the timing of sprays, and urea applications, later in the year - that's what I am really looking forward to, having a higher degree of confidence, when there is a shower or two coming our way."
Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the radar would make a real difference to farmers, across the Wimmera and southern Mallee.
"Accurate weather information is critical to making good farming decisions," Ms Symes said.
"We're proud to partner with the Bureau of Meteorology and the local community, who passionately advocated for this project."
Federal Environment minister Sussan Ley said the new radar underlined the government's strong commitment to strengthening the BoM's national observations network.
"We know just how vital radar and weather information is when farmers, emergency services and the broader community need to make critical decisions," Ms Ley said.
"That's why we're making significant budget commitments focused on supporting regional Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology's national observations network."
The Victorian Government provided $5 million for the construction of the Rainbow radar, and the Bureau of Meteorology has committed $4.3 million for its maintenance and operating costs for the next 15 years.
The dual-polarised radar's construction was in response to a WDA business case, which highlighted the significant cost savings and productivity benefits the radar would bring to the Wimmera and southern Mallee.
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