Manitoba and feds work to expand province's weather station network

WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba and federal governments are expanding a chain of weather stations in the province to provide farmers with better information about the changing climate.

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The number of automated agriculture weather stations is to be expanded to 84 from 61 by 2018.

The governments say data from these weather stations will be used to improve flood and drought forecasting, precipitation maps and monitoring severe weather.

The announcement follows the release of a report commissioned by Manitoba that says more must be done to help farmers deal with excess moisture and flooding and the risk of extended periods of drought.

The report notes that in 2011 more than 12,000 square kilometres of cropland was flooded in Manitoba, followed by months without rain that wilted remaining crops.

The governments say the expanded weather station network will also give farmers important information on soil conditions and help risk assessment for crop diseases and insects.

"Having enhanced access to weather and climate information will help farmers make important decisions affecting their farm," Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said Friday in a release.

Steve Ashton, Manitoba's minister responsible for emergency measures, said better weather information will also help the province to better forecast flooding during the spring melt.

The province says agriculture is a key part of Manitoba's economy, with sales of primary farm products worth almost $6 billion last year.

The last census estimated there were more than 15,000 farms in the province.



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