May , 2018
Weather forecasting and sustainability
14:38 pm

B.E. Bureau

An idea of sustainability in agriculture

A recent important media report claimed that a growing number of farmers in Punjab are interested in cultivating rice. The change of mind-set is due to some advantage of rice production over wheat or other products in the state. Punjab enjoys the biggest advantage of near total irrigation facility. Additionally, the state government provides free electricity to the farmers. Again paddy is such a product, which can be sold at MSP by almost any amount a farmer can supply. But paddy is a water-intensive product. How far is it sustainable if the rice production grows higher and higher? How far Maharashtra can sustain sugarcane production is also a question. This is because sugarcane is one of the most water-intensive crops. A kg of sugar requires about 12,000 litres of water. Maharashtra is a state where only 18% of the agricultural land is irrigated but noticeably most of the sugarcane producing land is irrigated. There has been a lot of fund allocation for constructing dam and other irrigation works in Maharashtra for the last two decades or more. But the result is not at all effective mainly because it is alleged that a lot of money have been diverted from irrigation allotment of the state. In case of paddy a kg of rice requires 5000 litres of water. If sugar cane or rice is exported and India can export it as it has comparative advantage in these commodities, it is said that it is tantamount to exporting huge water. This is why there remains a question about its sustainability as water is becoming a scarcer.

One of the reports mentions that Punjab has not comparative advantage over cultivation of rice. It can produce 19 kg rice by using one lakh litres of water. Tamil Nadu can produce 39 kg with the same amount of water. But Bihar has the production level of 54 kg of rice with one lakh litres of water. So the government policy should depend on comparative advantage. In the present example, a state like Punjab should not concentrate on rice due only to utilise some facilities from the government. The government should increase irrigation facility in places like Bihar to get more rice. This is one of the important I’llprocesses of sustainability in agriculture in our country.

Importance of weather forecast

Weather forecasts are important in protecting life and property, to save crops and to know what is happening in atmospheric environment. A section believes that an economic value resides behind weather forecasts and tried to estimate it through different methods.  The systematic weather records became available from 17th century and were employed mainly in agriculture. This is because farmers rely on weather forecasts to decide and plan farm activities. In many developed country it is common practice to help crop economics to utilize properly the resource and infra-structure, study soil type and water availability to a crop supplemented through irrigation scheduling with the help of weather forecast.

The predictability of weather conditions varies with time. That is to say that, in North West Europe for example, skilful weather forecasts at daily resolution are possible 10-14 days ahead, depending upon the type of atmospheric circulation regime. In other regimes, skill may actually be lost much earlier, in some instances only a few days ahead. For some applications, it isn’t always necessary to have daily forecast. 

A Carnfield University article published in 2014 writes that in the case of weather forecasts which relate to water usage in agriculture, forecasts of both precipitation amount (P) and evapotranspiration (E) are relevant, the latter being dependent upon forecasts of air temperature, humidity, surface solar radiation intensity and wind speed. The net figure (P-E) can naturally form the basis of decision-making with regard to irrigation scheduling and forecasts of cumulative (P-E) over a period of days or longer will normally represent the most relevant averaging period

Weather forecasts can also support the safe handling of farm animals, for example the management of temperature and humidity in chicken sheds, and the optimum storage
conditions for crops. Good and reliable forecasts are also very important in the management of extreme events and their prevention on agricultural practices (e.g. extreme events such as frost or hail could have strong and costly effects on yield if not predicted and prevented).



Professor (Dr.) B. B. Jana

Emeritus Professor, International Centre for Ecological Engineering, University of Kalyani, West Bengal.

Status of Weather Forecasting in Agriculture

Weather means the information about rainfall, maximum and minimum temperature, wind speed, direction, relative humidity and cloudiness on daily, weekly, monthly or relatively longer time basis. This information is an  important issue as they have an important role to play in providing weather climate information to farmers for their farm activities.

Wise use of weather and climate information can help to make better information policy and community decisions that reduce the risk of agricultural production and may take alternative measures for alternative suitable crop that would avoid the loss of agricultural production due to unfavourable climate stress. The same may be true for livestock and fisheries production. For example in fisheries, Indian carp fishes like rohu and catla are cultured in ponds during the monsoon months  when  all ponds and jheels get filled with rainwater. If there is prediction of draught, the farmers may become cautious and may plan for some other suitable fishes that are cultured in low water.With a view to providing direct service to the farmers community of the country, an exclusive Division of Agricultural Meteorology was established in 1932 in Pune under the banner of India Meteorological Department (IMD). With inadequate infrastructure and limited resource, the weather forecast given by the IMD was not satisfactory, and did not fulfill the purpose of the farmers. However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) with its Public Weather Service (PWS)  programme, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) started issuing better information from June 2008 for the farmers. The Agromet Advisory Services of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in the Ministry of Earth Sciences is a small step in this direction, aimed at “weatherproofing” farm production. Nevertheless, the current status is much poor compared to advanced countries.   

What is the role of the government?

For providing more dependable information, the Government should take necessary steps for up scaling the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) which  needs realignment, new resources and training that required  to provide location and crop specific actionable weather and climate services and products that link in available technologies,  and go to reach all farmers.

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