The Met Office and 101Smart Ltd have been working together to enhance the Blightwatch service for the 2016 season. A key part of these enhancements is the refresh of the website for both professional and amateur growers. The Blightwatch service is available to all users free of charge and you can register for the service by using our ‘Join Blightwatch’ section on the Homepage by providing a name and email address together with up to 10 postcode regions for which you would like to receive alerts. Other new features will be integrated into the service over the coming seasons.
Traditionally the risk of potato blight infection has been based on the calculation of Smith Periods – a system that uses hourly temperature and relative humidity. Until now, Smith Periods have been calculated using observation data from UK weather stations. The calculations involved the interpolation of the station values down to around 650 postcode areas.
For 2016, the Blightwatch service still uses the familiar Smith Period criterion to calculate and report Smith Period values. However, we have improved the spatial resolution of Smith Period reporting and the service now uses thousands of forecast points across the UK. Whilst Blightwatch is not able to represent Smith Periods right down to the individual field level, we can now calculate blight risks at a much more local level, for each of the individual postcode districts covering the whole of the UK. Alerts will be generated and sent to users based on traditional Smith Periods or when there has been a confirmed FAB outbreak for your chosen postcodes.
By using Met Office forecast data for thousands of forecast points across the UK, the Blightwatch service can now provide warning indications up to 24 hours ahead of potential Smith periods. It is important to understand that these warning indications are based entirely on forecast data and are subject to change, but they are a useful ‘heads up’ of the conditions that are forecast for the next day.
As with the previous Blightwatch service, the Blightwatch alerts do not constitute a recommendation to spray but will provide an earlier warning to aid management decisions around spray timing and intervals. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, no liability can be accepted for any error or omission in the content or for any loss, damage or other accident arising from the use of the fungicides for the control of potato blight in individual crops.