The agriculture sector must produce more food for a growing world population, which is expected to increase from 7 billion to about 9 billion by 2050. India is home for 1.32 billion people which comprise about 17 percent of the world’s population. As agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy that accounts for about 14 percent of the nation’s GDP, about 11 percent of its exports and provides livelihood to about half of its population. India possesses a wealth of biodiversity, have experienced severe weather variability, crop failure and recurrent famine throughout their histories.
To tackle the problems that arise as a result of climate change and the resultant droughts, floods, land degradation, losses of crop and biodiversity, famine, malnutrition and poverty, there is a need for greater awareness on managing the natural resources. The country needs a new integrated approach for advancement of improved technologies and good practices to manage crops and livestock, as well as the soil, land and ecological resources of the region. Most of the farmers in India are smallholder farmers often with limited access to technologies and resources which leaves them increasingly vulnerable to weather and climate fluctuations. Increased frequency, severity and intensity of weather and climate extremes have contributed to food deficits and failure to prevent widespread famine in many high risk areas.
Agricultural production depends upon many factors, of which weather is the major factor. Weather varies with space and time, hence, its forecast can help to minimize the farm losses through proper management of agricultural operations. Weather is one of the most important factors determining success or failure of agricultural production. It effects on every phase of growth and development of plant. Any variability in the weather during the crop season, such as delay in the monsoon, excessive rains, flood, droughts, spells of too-high or too-low temperatures would affect the crop growth and finally the quality and quantity of the yield. The losses in crop can be reduced by doing proper crop management in time by timely and accurate weather forecasts.
Weather forecast also provides guidelines for selection of crops best suited to the anticipated climatic conditions. The objective of the weather forecasting is to advice the farmers on the actual and expected weather and its impact on the various day-to-day farming operations i.e. sowing, weeding, time of pesticides spray, irrigation scheduling, fertilizer application etc. and overall crop management. Weather forecast helps to increase agriculture production, reduce losses, risks, reduce costs of inputs, improve quality of yield, increase efficiency in the use of water, labor and energy and reduce pollution with judicious use of agricultural chemicals. The complete avoidance of all farm losses due to weather factor is not possible but it can be minimized to some extent by making adjustments through timely and accurate information of weather forecast. Weather forecast and weather based agromet advisories help in increasing the economic benefit to the farmers by suggesting them the suitable management practices according to the weather conditions.
Agrometeorological services rendered by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Ministry of Earth Sciences is a step to contribute to weather information based crop/livestock management strategies and operations dedicated to enhancing crop production and food security. IMD is operating a scheme “Gramin Krishi Mausam Sewa” (GKMS) with an objective to serve the farming community at different parts of the country. Based on the medium range weather forecast, AAS bulletins are prepared for 636 districts and issued on every Tuesday and Friday. Efforts are being made to prepare AAS bulletins for all the districts of the country.
Dissemination of Agromet advisories
Dissemination of agromet advisories to the farmers through different multi-channel system of like All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan, private TV and radio channels, newspaper and whatsapp and SMS etc. is being made on wider scale. In addition to that number of AMFUs and DAMUs in collaboration with Agriculture Universities and Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s (KVKs)has started sending agromet advisories through SMS and whatsapp groups at district and block level. Agromet advisories are also being disseminated in both regional and english languages through “Kisan SMS”, a portal launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. At present approx. 22.50 million farmers are benefitted by this service directly. Weather forecast and advisories under alerts and warnings through SMS during extreme weather events are also issued which enable the farmers in planning of farming operations to minimise/ control damage of crops under the adverse weather conditions.
Awareness programmes are helping the farmers to make more self-reliant in dealing with weather and climate issues that affect agricultural production and also to assist the farmers and further develop their adaptive capacity with improved planning and better management decisions, a participatory, cross-disciplinary approach is being taken to delivering climate and weather information and enhancing the awareness of information user groups. Farmers receive informative brochures; pamphlets outlining weather-based farming guidelines; information on packages and crop practices in the district; leaflets containing information about pests and diseases, severe weather conditions, crops grown under stress conditions and inbuilt contingency plans; and the District Agromet Bulletin in local languages.
This present system of delivering the services at district level is underway to extend up to sub-district/ block level with dissemination up to village level to meet the end user’s requirements in both the irrigated and rain fed systems. Establishment of 660 District Agrometeorological Units (DAMUs) in each district of India at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is under pipeline which includes 130 existing AMFUs with the objective of preparing customized advisory at sub district/block level with medium range block level weather forecast, so that small and marginal farmers will be benefitted by these services.
(The author is Scientist (Agrometeorology) at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kathua, SKUAST Jammu)