The Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network, operated by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is in jeopardy due to key faculty and funding losses.

Georgia farmers depend on the network for weather, soil and water information that helps them make the quick decisions needed to efficiently produce their crops.

“Originally, it looked as though we would have to start decommissioning the 81-station network in mid-April,” said J. Scott Angle, CAES dean and director. “We have since secured some funds to give us a bit wider window to find the full funds needed to keep the network afloat.”

The network cost more than $300,000 annually to operate.

Each station in the AEMN records rainfall, air and soil temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, soil moisture and barometric pressure. Some stations record evaporation, water temperature and leaf wetness. All these values are read every second and averaged and recorded every 15 minutes on site.

The information doesn’t just help farmers. It helps a wide range of groups, including utility companies, which are the network’s heaviest users. The companies use the system to determine peak-usage times, which helps them make valuable production and billing decisions.

“The utility companies are the largest users of the network, but also reap the biggest benefits,” Angle said.

Other users include food brokers from around the world who need information about how Georgia crops are doing in order to make purchasing decisions. The system is used by event planners, golf course superintendents, schoolteachers and students, too.