Why is it imperative to factor weather and climate information in agriculture?

A few decades ago, a farmer would look at the behavior of the sky and guess that the rainfall season is approaching. Because of cultivating on large plots, they could plant on different time ranges. There used to be early planted crops (Isuka ya mbere), in the middle and after the rainfall season has started (Isuka ya nyuma). This was their farming practices. By chances, they could have good harvest or incur losses associated to the bad timing of rainfall season.

However, nowadays, with the effects of climate variability and change the rainfall seasons behavior become irregular whereby we observe the delay in the starting of the rainfall season or simply delay of onset; the early cessation, prolonged dry spells (a number of consecutive days without rainfall in the given rainfall season); poor rainfall distribution in particular season among others. This has significantly affected the agricultural harvest over few decades ago but due to the information of seasonal forecast provided by Meteo Rwanda some effects are minimize.

Nevertheless, evidences are there that the better application of meteorology into agriculture is essential for development and prosperity of the sector since every phase of agricultural activity depend entirely on the weather. The usefulness of meteorology in agriculture greatly benefits the farmers to gain improved efficiency and ensure sustainability of their farm management; protect and ensure the continuing health of their crops, livestock and environment; increase their yield and market value chain products and solve selected operational problems.  

More than ever, agrometeorological services have become essential because of the challenges provided by many forms of agricultural production in the face of increasing climate variability and change, which is affecting the socio-economic development of the people. These intents can only be achieved through active cooperation among National Meteorological Services, agricultural extension services, farmers and their associations, agricultural research institutes, universities and PSF especially agro processing industries.

Key Climatic factors on agriculture:

The growing crops require, solar radiation, air temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity etc. All those important climatic factors determine the growth, development and yield of the crop.                

Rwanda Meteorology Agency produce agrometeorological bulletin which summarizes the weather experienced in the last ten days and the expected weather within the next ten days. While packaging the agrometeorological bulletin, the month is divided into three dekads. The dekad one (1st) start from the 1st to 10th; the second (2nd) starts on 11th to 20th while the third (3rd) or last dekad starts from 21st to 30th of each month.

Besides agro-meteorological bulletin, Meteo Rwanda produces and disseminates the seasonal forecast, monthly forecast as well as the short-range forecast (Nowcast, six hours, daily, three, five and seven days’ forecasts).

The agrometeorological information provided by Meteo Rwanda can help a farmer to know:

  1. Crop/varieties selection based on weather of a particular location
  2. Information on sowing and harvesting dates
  3. Climate information on pest and diseases attacks.
  4. Management and modification of microclimate,
  5. Meteorological information for guiding irrigation and drainage,
  6. Environmental risks and disaster mitigation,
  7. Highland and mountain agriculture,
  8. Prediction of El-Nino and rainfall variability for agricultural planning,
  9. Information on weather based pesticides/insecticides applications,
  10. Arial transport of pollutants and knowledge regarding low level winds for operational activities.
  11. Rainfall probabilities, length of the seasons, onset and cessation date, dry spell period, etc.

 General importance

The knowledge in time and space of available weather conditions from below the soil surface through the soil-air interface into the boundary layer of the atmosphere, both favorable and unfavorable are all varying a great deal, provide guidance for strategic agrometeorological decisions in long-range planning of agricultural systems.

The observations/monitoring of real-time weather and dissemination of meteorological information, quantification of remote sensing (radar and satellites) and derived indices and operational services are important for tactical agrometeorological decisions in short term planning of agricultural operations at different growth stages.

Although long-term weather forecasts relevant to the agricultural community is slowly made available on a routine basis, significant services are provided by means of agrometeorological forecasts such as ten days bulletin and crop assessment report.

Agrometeorological services shoulder greater responsibilities due to high pressure of food security on ever growing population across many countries. More and more demands pertaining to agrometeorological information and services are expected to increase from the farming communities in the near future.

Advisories based on agro-meteorological information

Forecasts of significant meteorological phenomena that result in issuance of advisories and warnings for sufficiently long lead times are of tremendous valuable. Early warnings against natural disasters not only help to save the crop, by adopting quick strategic planning, but also to advance or postpone agricultural operations. Dissemination of such warnings to the end users on a real time basis with the help of electronic media may become a key factor for crop production and protection. Agrometeorological services in the form of technology recommendations appropriate at field level are often required for decision making processes of farmers.

The economic value of weather information products is steadily increasing due to public awareness over the years. Facilities for data quantity and quality control, quick processing and analysis have made this possible. Thus generation of information and issuance of products on real time basis to the farming community for socio-economic activities have become possible for organizing of such important services.

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