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Predict and prevent

Weather forecasts with crop-specific advisories help farmers prevent losses.

Written by Garima Mishra | Varudhi Pathar (maharashtra) |
November 29, 2013 3:22:39 am

Suresh Sadhu Phantangre of Varudi Pathar village,around 170 km from Pune,is spending less and harvesting more tomatoes than he used to. Till last year,he used to spend Rs 20,000; this year,he spent Rs 12,000. Besides,his produce has jumped 50 per cent and he says its quality too is better.

Like many other farmers of Varudi Pathar,Phantangre attributes the improvement to a change in approach. Around a year ago,they were introduced to agro-advisories,which are weather-based,crop-and-locale-specific and include management recommendations. The advisories,in Marathi,were put up twice a week in the summer and more frequently in the agricultural season as a wallpaper in the village.

“About three weeks earlier,I had read there was a chance of tomato crops catching a disease called karpa,” says Phantangre. “I noticed my plants had the disease,at an early stage. The advisory carried a recommendation about the type of pesticide that will work against the disease. Thanks to timely action,75 per cent of it came under control.”

It was about a year ago that Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) launched its agro-advisories in 31 villages in Sangamner and Akole regions as part of a climate change adaptation project. Automated weather stations have been installed in each village,linked directly to WOTR’s server,which sends hourly weather data to the Indian Meteorological Department,which in turn sends out a three-day forecast for the project area. Using these forecasts,agriculture experts with WOTR prepare the agro-advisories,with help from Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture,and Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth. These advisories are also sent through SMS to farmers.

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“This helps the farmers respond better to pest attack,dry spells,delayed rains,heavy rains and so on,and thereby decrease the chances of losses,” says Ganesh Kakade,coordinator of the project at Varudi Pathar.

“The farmers have got so used to checking the advisory that when one day the wallpaper wasn’t put up for some reason,one farmer called the WOTR office in Pune to ask why the information hadn’t been released,” says Sambhaji Jadhav,a “Vasundhara sevak” tasked with putting up the wallpapers and sending the SMSes.

The advisory has three sections,dealing with each crop,its stage,and the corresponding advice. “The advisory covers almost all the crops that are grown by the farmers of that village,” says Kakade,adding around 60 per cent of the farmers of the 31 villages are following the advisory.

Bharat Jadhav,who grows pomegranates,says,“Earlier,we depended on our own predictions. Now,since the pesticide and its quantity is recommended and we can see the result too,we go as per the advisory.”

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