Growing weather and climate uncertainties pose a major threat to India’s food security. The combination of long-term changes and the greater frequency of extreme weather events are likely to have an adverse impact on food production in the coming decades.
In this regard, India Meteorological Department (IMD), under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has taken a major initiative through its Integrated Agro-Meteorological Advisory Service (IAAS) for the benefit of 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 a village level outreach.
Under IAAS, a mechanism was developed to integrate weather forecast, climatic and agro-meteorological information to prepare agro-advisories for enhancing farm productivity in India.
Agro-advisory services translate weather and climatic information into farm advisories using existing scientific knowledge. Weather advisories involve weather sensitive farm operations such as sowing, transplantation of crops, fertiliser application in keeping with weather conditions, intensity of rain, pest and disease control, inter-cultural operations, quantum and lining of irrigation canals in keeping with the meteorological threshold and timely harvest of crops.
IAAS provides special inputs to the farmer as an advisory bulletin. It has made a tremendous difference to agricultural production by taking advantage of benevolent weather and minimising its adverse impacts. IAAS was launched in collaboration with different organisations/institutes/stakeholders on April 1, 2007 for weather-wise farm management.
IMD is operating the IAAS in close collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other organisations. The weather information and related agromet advisories, prepared and disseminated at the district-level, helps farmers take day to day decisions such as, selection of crops and varieties for sowing, undertaking intercultural operation, application of irrigation and plant protection measures, undertaking mulching for conservation of soil moisture and harvesting of crops.
Information received on the possible weather and related agromet advisories help farmers minimise 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.
District level agromet advisories are prepared by 130 agromet field units using medium-range weather forecasts (five days) for eight weather parameters, including:
- Maximum and minimum temperature,
- Total cloud cover,
- Surface relative humidity,
- Surface wind, and,
Bulletins are issued twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, and disseminated to farmers in the regional languages. Composite bulletins at national and state levels are also prepared once and twice in a week, respectively. Fortnightly bulletin using extended range weather forecast are also made available for policy makers and planners.
Dissemination of agromet advisories to farmers is being currently done through All India Radio (AIR) and the 18 regional Doordarshan Kendras of the country including the central production centre of Doordarshan, New Delhi through Krishi Darshan Programmes, private TV and radio channels, newspaper and internet, short message service (SMS) and interactive voice response technology (IVR).
Under Public-Private-Partnership mode, Reuter Market Light, IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL), NOKIA-HCL, Handygo, Mahindra Samriddhi, CAB International, National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) are disseminating agro-met advisories in SMS and IVR format to the farming community. In addition, a number of agro-met field units (AMFUs) have started sending agromet advisories through SMS in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC)/Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA)/Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK)/ National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
Agromet advisories are also disseminated in both regional languages and English through ‘Kisan SMS’, a portal—farmer.gov.in/advs/login.aspx, launched by the agriculture ministry of the Indian government. So far, 11.50 million farmers have directly benefited by this service till now.
During April 2015, the Agricultural Meteorology Division, with the help of Agromet Field Units, disseminated advisories to around 5.15 million farmers in both English and regional languages to minimise crop losses due to severe thunderstorm and hailstorms in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
In addition to this, IMD in collaboration with Reliance Foundation Information Services (RFIS) is disseminating agromet advisories to the farming community in seven States—Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, in a pilot mode. The agromet advisories have covered 1.8 million farmers so far.
Sangli grape growers- a case study
In 2012, the grape growers in Sangli district, Maharashtra, saved their crops from a severe cold wave in the month of January-February due to timely agromet advisory services. The advisories issued informed farmers about the expected dip in temperatures well in advance, while advising them how to maintain the temperature on their farms to save their harvest. For many grape growers in Sangli, the production of grapes would not have been possible if the services were not provided. When the temperature drops below a certain limit, the grapes are attacked by downy mildew. By the time farmers realise that the crop is attacked, it is too late. But, with the availability of agromet advisory services, saving crops from changing weather conditions is now an easy possibility.
During times of climate change, agromet services can play a significant role in helping farmers tide over the vagaries of weather, and prepare well in advance to protect their harvests. Agromet services disseminated by the IMD/MoES through the radio, television, and hand held devices are a boon to agriculture, and the surest path to food security.