The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will extend farmer advisory services to block levels, a decade after launching them at the district level. In its pilot phase, the services will be launched in at least 200 blocks across India.
Until recently, the IMD, the state agricultural universities, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes and the IITs, would send out agricultural meteorology (agrimet) advisories scaling up to the district level.
For this project, titled ‘Experimental Block level Agromet Advisory Services’, recognised under the Gramin Krishi Mausam Seva, the IMD has joined hands with ICAR. The aim of the proposed service is to reach out to 95 million farmers spread across 660 districts or 6,500 blocks in the country by 2020.
Currently, weather-based agriculture services, in both regional languages and English, are being issued twice a week — on Tuesday and Fridays. For this, the team makes use of weather data gathered from a vast number of surface, agromet and automatic weather stations along with separate stations to track evaporation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture and dew fall. Soon, there are plans to rope-in state-run weather stations to strengthen this network.
Speaking to The Indian Express, N Chattopadhyay, deputy director general of agrimet division, said, “This is a massive and first-of-its-kind exercise to relay advisories to farmers at block levels, given that the time between the issuance of forecast and dissemination of advisories is fast shrinking. Technology and high performance computing have largely helped in handling and processing big data, for which we are co-ordinating with other agencies.”
For the maiden experimental works, which commenced in early July, the agrimeteorologists used weather data generated from thousands of automated weather stations located in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
“Since these states presently offer the most dense networks of AWS in the country, we first channelised all available weather information and processed the same. Later, customised advisories for block-level will be issued to the farmer community on a pilot basis,” he explained.
These advisories, being highly customised in nature, can largely benefit farmers in times of extreme weather events, helping them preventing major crop losses.
Typically, a state can have several thousands of AWS and collating such vast data is no easy task. Therefore, the agrimet office has started providing hands-on training to new inductees before being deployed at various district agromet units (DAMU) spread across the the country. Presently, as many as 130 agromet field units have been established.
“We are providing training to these personnel who will be deployed at DAMUs and by 2020, every district will have one DAMU,” added Chattopadhyay, who said there would be a total of 660 DAMUs within two years.
According to the latest statistics, as many as 4 crore Indian farmers receive SMS advisories in 15 regional languages and English.