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Monsoon 2020: Managing the Weather Forecast is the Need of the Hour

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

The weather and agriculture are related to each other therefore there is a need for accurate prediction of weather to enable farmers to make an informed decision that will not bring losses to them. Temperature, sunlight, and rainfall have major effects on the crops.  

A lot matters due to temperature in that case when it comes to the farming of different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and pulses. Earlier we did not have a better understanding of weather forecasting and farmers were still doing their job based on predictions. Sometimes they occur loss due to false predictions of weather. 

Crop weather factors mean that crops and cropping practices vary across areas within the same season. The desired areal delineation of forecasts can be realized in the case of well-organized weather systems. 

After the introduction of the technologies in forecasting the weather as the technology is developed and special weather forecasting mechanisms are available, the farmers can get all the updates are on a smartphone. Education towards that is, of course, an important thing but most of the farmer population at this stage knows the basics which make it easy for them to use the features. 

Up to 1981, teaching and research in Agrometeorology discipline was carried out within the Department of Agronomy in PAU as the Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana was established in 1962. According to the recommendations of National Commission on Agriculture, an independent department of Agril. Meteorology was established during 1981-82 with assistance from ICAR. 

The M.Sc. Programme initiated in 1979-80 while Ph.D programme was started in 1992-93 PAU was the first institution in the country to start these programme and to start short range weather prediction and forecasts and issuance of Agro advisories for farmers. A network of automatic weather stations covering all five agroclimatic zones with central facility at Ludhiana has been established. 

Agrometeorology with the Research thrust include weather driven dynamic crop growth and yield simulation models for various crops, crop weather relationships, weather- crop-insects/diseases interactions. Climatic changes and their effects on crop productivity, modifications to alleviate environmental stress, evapotranspiration and water requirements of important crops. 

The best -infrastructure has been created for teaching/ extension and research in agrometeorology viz. climatology, crop weather interactions, field microclimate modifications to alleviate environmental stresses, evapotranspiration and water requirements of crop, weather crop insect/disease interactions, crop growth simulation modelling and climate changes effects on crop production. These courses form the bases to formulate agro advisories to face aberrant weather conditions and advise on efficient farm management practices to farmers. 

The Advisory Services of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for Agromet in the Ministry of Earth Sciences is a small step in this direction, aimed at “weatherproofing” farm production. The National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) have an important role to play in providing this weather and climate information to farmers, big and small. 

The weather forecast event helps for suitable planning of farming operations. It helps to decide whether to undertake or withhold the sowing operation. To irrigate the crop or not, when to apply fertilizer and whether to start complete harvesting or to withhold it are the major components for which forecasting is a must. 

The Forecasting of Weather Services meet the real-time needs of farmers and contribute to weather-based crop/livestock management strategies and operations dedicated to enhancing crop production and food security. They can make a tremendous difference in agricultural production by assisting farmers in taking the advantage of benevolent weather and in minimizing the adverse impact of malevolent weather. 

Regular weather services started by IMD for farmers in 1945 in the form of a “Farmers’ Weather Bulletin” and broadcasts through All India Radio in regional languages. On the recommendation of the National Commission on Agriculture (NCA), in 1971, it launched Agrometeorological Advisory Services (AAS), a comprehensive tool tailored to farmers’ need.  Then in 1975-1976, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), conducted a Satellite Instructional & Television Experiment (SITE) with IMD and agricultural agencies that led to the production of crop specific weather-based agronomic advisories for different regions of the country. The integrated Agromet Advisory Services were further developed in 2007 and have steadily been improved since. 

Now, IMD is implementing operational agrometeorological schemes across the country under a five-tier structure: 

  • Top-level policy planning body in Delhi

  • Execution by the National AgrometService headquarters in Pune 

  • Coordination and monitoring by State AgrometCentres 

  • Definition of the agro-meteorological zone

  • Local level  orDistrict level extension and training for input management advisory service 

This structure includes State Agricultural Universities, Institutes of Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Indian Institutes of Technology. The district Agromet Advisory Services would not be sustainable without it. 

The need of a farmer at primary level  is a location-specific and quantified weather forecast. Since  June 2008, the IMD started issuing the  quantitative district level weather forecasts – for rainfall, maximum and minimum temperatures, wind speed and direction, relative humidity and cloudiness – with up to 5 days advance warning and a weekly cumulative rainfall forecast. Hence, these products were sent twice a week along with other value added information to 130 AgroMet Field Units (AMFUs) for preparation of district level advisories. 

The   weather forecasts applications to generate crop advisories requires the definition of a spatial domain of validity and a temporal range as well as accuracy. On the district level, such are prepared containing past weather, forecast for 5 days ahead and a weather-based agrometeorological advisory that includes pest and disease information.  At the phenological stages of plant development included in crop specific advisories to offer farmers guidance on cultural practices. All of the information is geared to help farmers maximize output and avert crop damage or loss.  

IMD, state agricultural universities, Institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Indian Institute of Technology, working with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders, have jointly organized these group awareness campaigns in different parts of the country.   The Farmers were receiving informative brochures and pamphlets outlining weather-based farming guidelines; information on crop management practices in the district; about pests and diseases, severe weather conditions, crops that can be developed under stress conditions and contingency plans; and on the District Agromet Bulletin – all in local languages. Five plastic rain gauges are distributed to the most progressive farmers participating in the campaign in order to improve the relationship between providers of the advisories and the users and developing a local, or village level, rain-measuring network. The weather forecast rain gauges engage farmers in the observation of weather data that contribute to the preparation of the Agromet Advisory Services. Such outreach campaigns are organized in farmers’ club meeting, during scientific field trips, farmers’ field schools, etc.  

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