A gaping hole in the national weather radar network has finally been filled, with the Bureau of Meteorology's new installation at Rainbow in western Victoria going online today.
The region has long been considered a black hole for weather radar, because the nearest stations — in Mildura and Mount Gambier — are too far away to provide accurate data on approaching rain.
This meant farmers in one of the country's most productive farming regions were making costly decisions without the information they needed.
Work on the radar began in 2018 after years of campaigning by local farmers and the Wimmera Development Association.
Radar essential for farmers
Farmers need to know when rain is approaching so they can best judge when to spray and fertilise their crops.
If rain is on the way, spraying will be held off as chemicals won't be effective. If rain is approaching, fertiliser is put out to be activated.
Marshall Rodda, a farmer at Tarranyurk, just down the road from the new radar station, said it had been a nightmare trying to decide — without reliable information — when to spray and fertilise.
"The radar didn't give us accurate enough information, so it could have been raining in our area and the radar wouldn't have shown it at all," he said.
"Urea will only last for a certain amount of time without moisture, so therefore that urea would be totally wasted."
Mr Rodda said the state-of-the-art doppler radar would mean more money in his pocket.
"We might have been spending money under false pretences, whereas now we should be able to spend it wisely and get a return for our investment," he said.
"Everybody wants a bang for their buck."
Modern farming needs data
Reliable radar data should be a given in 2020, according to Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke.
"This isn't a negotiable. We need to have good information, good data to run modern businesses that now, more than ever, the country's relying on," he said.
"Dryland agriculture does rely on farmers being very smart in how they use their inputs, but they can't do that flying blind, and this is another piece of the jigsaw.
"You hear plenty of stories of people who put fertiliser out in front of the rain front that never came, as much as the people who wish they would have put fertiliser out because they got a rain they didn't see coming.
"In 2020, this should be absolutely core business for agriculture."ABC