Authors: PINAKI ROY AND ANSHU RANI
Abstract: Climate and weather information plays a crucial part before and after any cropping season. It provides plethora of knowledge to the farmers and farm women about resource utilization and if it is given in advance, can boost productivity at farm place in multi-folds. An initiative was taken by Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), being operationalized by Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) called Agro- meteorological Advisory Service (AAS) to help the farmers in their farming, so that they could utilize the resources at maximum and with minimum wastage and loss. Simultaneously, it will also provide avenues to increase farm productivity and instil confidence in farmers. India is a land of agriculture. More than 70 % of population depend on agriculture and agriculture in turn depends on climate, which is the unique in the world itself. With so much variety in climate ranging from South-West monsoon to North-East monsoon, it has made agriculture vulnerable. With some advances in weather forecast, the process of adaptation could be well done. Agro- meteorological Advisories are the single window solutions for all the queries related to fluctuating weather conditions and management of crops according to that. It not only helps to stabilize the production but helps in resource utilization as well. The main aim of AAS is to gather information on weather and climate, soil related information, and crop based knowledge and combines them with weather forecast in order to provide farmers the vision to manage their decision, which ultimately would bring maximum productivity with minimum loss. While solving the problems of farmers, AAS itself has evolved in due course of time. It has developed specific tools to assess weather information for greater efficiency. But the process of evolution should go far if Indian agriculture has to be efficient and productive.
India is home for 1.32 billion people who comprise about 17 per cent of the world’s population. The nation has to nurture its huge population with only 2.4 per cent of the world’s geographical area and 4 per cent of its water resources. As agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy that accounts for about 14 per cent of the nation’s GDP, about 11per cent of its exports, and provides livelihood to about half of the population. But Indian agriculture is presently challenged by a number of constraints like climate change, depleting natural resources, land fragmentation etc. Impact of climate change on agriculture will be one of the major deciding factors influencing the future food security of mankind on the earth. Agriculture is not only sensitive to climate change but also one of the major drivers for climate change. The climate sensitivity of agriculture is uncertain, as there is regional variation in rainfall, temperature, crops and cropping systems, soils and management practices. The inter-annual variations in temperature and precipitation were much higher than the predicted changes in temperature and precipitation. The crop losses may increase if the predicted climate change increases the climate variability. Different crops respond differently as the global warming will have a complex impact. The tropics are more dependent on agriculture as 75% of world population lives in tropics and two thirds of these people’s main occupation is agriculture. With low levels of technology, wide range of pests, diseases and weeds, land degradation, unequal land distribution and rapid population growth, any impact on tropical agriculture will affect their livelihood. Rice, wheat, maize, sorghum, soybean and barley are the six major crops in the world grown in 40% cropped area, and contribute to 55% of non-meat calories and over 70% of animal feed (FAO, 2015). Consequently, any effect on these crops would adversely affect the food security. By 2050, the India’s population will reach 1.7 billion people, creating the most populated country in the world. Henceforth food demand will increase by 70%, and is already lagging domestic food production. India’s overall demand for food grains is expected to increase from 236.2 million tonnes in 2010 to 303-318 million tonnes in 2030 (Anonymous, 2017). But Indian agriculture production system faces the daunting task of feeding 17.5% of the global population with only 2.4% of land and 4% of water resources at its disposal. India is more vulnerable to climate change in view of the dependence of huge population on agriculture, excessive pressure on natural resources, and relatively weak coping mechanisms. The warming trend in India over the past 100 years has indicated an increase of 0.6°C, which is likely to impact many crops, negatively impacting food and livelihood security of millions of farmers. The impacts of climate change on agriculture may not be felt evenly. In these situation Agro- meteorological Advisories are the single window solutions for all the queries related to fluctuating weather conditions and management of crops according to that. It not only helps to stabilize the production but helps in resource utilization as well. The main aim of AAS is to gather information on weather and climate, soil related information, and crop based knowledge and combines them with weather forecast in order to provide farmers the vision to manage their decision, which ultimately would bring maximum productivity with minimum loss. While solving the problems of farmers, AAS itself has evolved in due course of time. It has developed specific tools to assess weather information for greater efficiency. But the process of evolution should go far if Indian agriculture has to be efficient and productive.
Effect of climate change:
Indian climate is dominated by the southwest monsoon, which brings most of the region‘s precipitation. It is critical for the availability of drinking water and irrigation for agriculture. Agricultural productivity is sensitive to two broad classes of climate-induced effects (1) direct effects from changes in temperature, precipitation or carbon dioxide concentrations, and (2) indirect effects through changes in soil moisture and the distribution and frequency of infestation by pests and diseases. Rice and wheat yields could decline considerably with climatic changes (IPCC 1996; 2001). However, the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change depends not only on the physiological response of the affected plant, but also on the ability of the affected socio-economic systems of production to cope with changes in yield, as well as with changes in the frequency of droughts or floods. The adaptability of farmers in India is severely restricted by the heavy reliance on natural factors and the lack of complementary inputs and institutional support systems. The loss in net revenue at the farm level is estimated to range between 9% and 25% for a temperature rise of 2 °C to 3.5 °C. Scientists also estimated that a 2°C rise in mean temperature and a 7% increase in mean precipitation would reduce net revenues by 12.3% for the country as a whole. Agriculture in the coastal regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka is found to be the most negatively affected. Small losses are also indicated for the major food-grain producing regions of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, West Bengal, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh are predicted to benefit to a small extent from warming, Hence, growing weather and climate uncertainties pose a major threat in Indian agriculture. The combination of long term changes and greater frequency of extreme weather events are like to have an adverse impact on food production in the coming decades. Agromet advisories is the need of the hour. This initiative provides benefits to the farmers. This agro meteorological service, is an innovative step meant to contribute to weather information based crop/livestock management strategies and operations dedicated to enhancing crop production by providing real time crop and location specific agromet services with village level outreach.
Role of agromet service to mitigate climate change : Agromet services translate weather and climatic information into farm advisors using existing scientific knowledge. Weather advisors involve weather sensitive farm operations such as sowing, transplantation of crops, fertilizer application in keeping with weather conditions, intensity of rain, pest and disease control, inter-cultural operations, quantum lining of irrigation canals in keeping with the meteorological threshold and timely harvest of crops. It has made a tremendous difference to agricultural production by taking advantage of benevolent weather and minimizing its adverse impact. The weather information and related agromet advisories helps the farmers to take day to day decisions such as, selection of crops and varieties for sowing, undertaking intercultural operations, application of irrigation and plant protection measures, undertaking mulching for conservation soil moisture and harvesting of crops. Information received on possible weather and related agromet advisories help farmers minimize losses due to aberrant weather and save valuable inputs by postponement of operations. Agromet advisories issued to combat extreme weather events like cyclones also help farmers take immediate decisions on harvesting, draining out excess water and other rejuvenation measures. It can be effectively used in crop planning and its management.
With institutional support and policies, advisories and climate information (historical, monitored, predicted) offer great potential to enable farmers to make informed decisions, better manage risk, take advantage of favourable climate conditions, and adapt to change.
The Advisory Services will be more effective if they are given in simple and local language that farmers can understand it. In order to make the Agro-Met Advisory Services more successful and continuous process, it is to be supported with:
- agro meteorological database,
- crop conditions,
- real time weather, research results on crop-weather relationships, and
- skilled manpower in multi- disciplinary resources and users interface.
- Salience: bridging the gap between the content, scale, format, and lead-time that farmers need and the information that is routinely available;
- Legitimacy: giving farmers an effective voice in design and delivery of services;
- Access: supporting timely access and understanding for remote rural communities;
- Equity: ensuring that women and other economically and socially marginalized groups benefit;
- Integration: connecting climate services to the broader agricultural development effort. This area of research deals with the information, communication processes, institutional arrangements, and evidence needed to provide effective, equitable climate information and advisory services that benefit smallholder farmers at scale.
Institutional intervention: Agromet Advisory Services use three dissemination channels – mass media, group awareness campaigns and individual contacts – in order to reach more farmers. Some 19 million farmers are currently subscribed to the SMS advisories, but there is still a need for greater dissemination and to convince farmers of the sustainability of the positive impacts observed in the long term. The group awareness campaigns are strengthening use of the services in farming communities and helping farmers to be more self-reliant in dealing with weather and climate issues that affect agricultural production. They are also permitting farmers to adapt better by improving their planning skills and management decision-making. A participatory, cross-disciplinary approach is taken to deliver climate and weather information and enhance awareness in these user groups. 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 group awareness campaigns in different parts of the country. Farmers receive 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 grown under stress conditions and contingency plans; and on the District Agromet Bulletin – all in local languages. But there is still a long way to go. Agricultural production farmers’ incomes can be further increased by reducing their losses and distress. It is challenging task for government, IMD as well as all the other stakeholders. IMD has set itself the challenge of further enhancing the accuracy of weather forecasts and to make the Agromet Advisory Services more useful and demand-driven by farmers. It will also venture into generating high-resolution medium range weather forecast and advisories that address various agricultural issues.
Strategies to empowering farmers: In order to process all the aforesaid statements some strategies need to be followed. Some of them are:
- Expand SMS: Farmer (i.e. more SMS per number of farmers) so that maximum benefits of the agromet services could be reaped.
- Modernize Agromet websites and related ICTs to make it more interactive and accessible to farmers and farm women users.
- All the involved stakeholders viz. Agri Experts, Knowledge Institutions, Services Providers, etc. should be brought together on various platforms through multi linkages.
- Various ICT based models could be developed to disseminate agriculture information.
- Agromet Domain should be linked with other sister websites of other Ministries who work in close cooperation and consultation viz: Rural, Panchayati Raj etc. to provide holistic development of people dependent on it.
- Farmers need,
- Crop specific advisory : As the requirement of the farmers, crop specific advisory services need to be delivered. Management of crop specific data is a challenge due to change in cropping patterns so this needs to be developed in consultation with extension officials and scientists associated with it.
- Mobile compatibility : Decoding SMS in a regional language is an issue with farmers so workforce skilled in decoding regional languages should be increased for its greater reach to the beneficiaries.
- Feedback mechanism : There is no close loop in the information advisory. Contact mechanism has to be designed
- On demand advisory : Farmers look for a on-demand advisory through ICT route. Follow up for an SMS received by them. In addition to these it is important to consider the estimation of soil moisture based on Satellite data, remote Sensing and GIS in AAS and also engage farmers in developing advisories.
- Training needs: Training should be organized on,
- Climatologically Analyses particularly of rainfall and temperature
- Weather forecasting and services specific to agriculture
- Crop water use and irrigation management
- Crop simulation modelling
- Role of Meteorology in Crop protection, including pests and diseases modelling
- Weather, Climate and Livestock, poultry and fish production
- Climate Change and Agriculture
- Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing in Agro meteorology.
- User requirement
- Types of economic decision can be categorized according to three time scales:
- Long-term planning for agricultural development (rational allocation of land, choice of crops, selection of species and varieties).
- Medium-term planning for the next season (choice of farming area, crop varieties, etc.);
- Short-term decisions regarding imminent farming operations (choice of optimal sowing and harvest dates, dates and quantities for fertilization, dates and quantities for irrigation, etc.).
- Service requirement:
- To establish the worthiness of the service : Economic impact has to be carried out in order to know its potential benefits.
- Service credibility : Credibility is always closely linked to forecast verification. Hence economic impact studies need to be carried out to derive optimum benefits from the marketing of the service.
- Service accountability or justification : Assessment of the service helps justifying the costs and the on-going need and existence of such a service.
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About Author / Additional Info:
Junior Research Fellow, Division of Agricultural Extension, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi-110012