April 29, 2005 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson
LEXINGTON, Ky.

In the late 1970s, farmers could go to a central location, perhaps their local University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service office, to get the latest agricultural information. Whether they wanted weather, futures prices or the most recent blue mold information, they were able to download files to a box hooked to a television and a phone. 

UK Agricultural Meteorologist Tom Priddy said back then 100 farmers in Todd and Shelby counties tested the system called the Green Thumb project. It was the first test in the United States to use computers to disseminate educational information to people where they live. Stanford University evaluated the project and gave it a “thumbs up” so to speak. 

These days, farmers can get the same information in their own homes via personal computers or they can get the information right in the field on a web-accessible cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). Priddy believes pocket computers, as they are sometimes called, have opened an unlimited pathway into people’s everyday lives. That’s why the UK Ag Weather Center has created a cell phone and PDA-friendly Web site.

“When farmers are out in the field, they need to know what the agricultural weather situation is right then – especially the current radar,” he said. “They don’t have time to go home and check the television or the computer; they need weather on the fly. Now, they’ll be able to access our Web site no matter where they are.”

Those with web-accessible cell phones and PDAs can visit the UK Ag Weather Center’s Web site at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu/pda.shtml. They can access the latest forecasts,
outlooks, observations, weather maps, and radar images – customizable by zip code.

“This is also a great tool for emergency managers and storm spotters,” Priddy said. “It allows them to look at the radar images while they are spotting storms.”

Farmers and storm spotters are not the only users of weather on cell phones and PDAs. Priddy said anyone traveling would benefit from having weather instantly available.

“When you’re traveling you can always listen for the latest weather conditions on the radio, but you’ll only hear weather from the area you are currently in,” he said. “You may hear regional information, but if you have a web-accessible cell phone you can get information for the area you are traveling through and the all the areas ahead of you. It really helps plan trips and vacations.”

Priddy said the weather center is committed to using the latest technology to deliver weather information to Kentuckians.

“The potential is unlimited here,” he said. “This is latest way to disseminate educational information from Land Grant universities to the people we serve.”

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee Heald-Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Tom Priddy 859-257-3000, ext. 245