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PUNE-BASED NGO Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) and Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last week to work on a multi-institutional collaboration project seeking to provide customised weather-based crop advisories for farmers. The WOTR works in the field of watershed development and climate change adaptation. It has also entered into separate MoUs with other partners in collaboration with the Meteorological Department, the Central Institute of Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) and the Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (VNMKV) at Parbhani. The Agriculture Department of the Government of Maharashtra and Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) are also supporting WOTR in the effort.
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The founder of WOTR, Crispino Lobo, said, “Climate change is happening and weather variability and extreme weather events are causing serious losses to farmers across the country. In order to address this issue, reduce risks and losses, stabilise agricultural productivity and adapt to changing weather conditions, the government has launched a farmer’s portal that gives crop weather advisories to farmers across the country.”
Lobo said Maharashtra leads the country in this effort with nearly 60 lakh farmers regularly receiving crop weather advisories. Lobo stressed that in order to improve the advisories’ utility and effectiveness for farmers, accurate information must be obtained across various parameters such as weather forecast, soil type, soil moisture content, water availability, growth stage of the crop, crop health and so on.
“This information must then be assessed to understand how these conditions were likely to impact the growth and productivity of the crop, based on which appropriate crop management practices could be suggested to the farmers to minimise weather-induced risks, reduce losses and enhance productivity,” he added.
The assessment, Lobo said, is challenging as it needs to address crucial issues under different weather scenarios, like when and how the crops should be irrigated; when and what types of nutrients and fertilizers to give; what pests and diseases might arise and how to prevent or abate them; what farm operations and agronomic practices to undertake and what precautionary and protective measures to implement to avoid losses and damages.
“Such an exercise requires integrating various data streams and the development of IT-enabled decision support systems which dynamically automate the process of assessment and generation of weather-sensitive crop advisories that are customized to local conditions,” said Lobo. Each collaborating partner is bringing to this project their specific expertise and domain knowledge.