The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is working on a plan to provide localised medium-range weather forecasts in regional languages through short message service (SMS) to farmers on request and for free.By dialling a dedicated number, farmers from anywhere in the country can request for weather information such as rains, temperature, humidity and wind speed for the next five days for their village or block.
The requests made by the farmers would be processed by a dedicated team in IMD and information would be given to them in respective regional language through SMS. According to M Ravichandran, secretary, ministry of earth sciences, customised information on weather events at the regional level on request would help farmers to plan their agricultural activities such as use of fertilisers and other inputs, irrigation etc. Citizens can also request for information about their local weather forecasts using the common phone number.
“Since large sections of farmers don’t have smart phones (through which they can get weather related information), the current system of providing advisories is more generic to a district and voluntary,” Ravichandran told FE. The information to be provided will be more specific to the area of farming and hence more useful to the farmer.
At present, under a joint initiative of IMD, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), a mobile app ‘Meghdoot’ provides district specific farm advisories on crop and livestock management in English and local languages.
IMD has set up close to 200 agro-automatic weather stations at the district level for generating information on rains, temperature, humidity and wind speed. Under the Gramin Krishi Mausam Seva, the met department is also providing district level weather forecasts twice a week in collaboration with state agricultural universities and affiliated institutes of ICAR, which functions under the agriculture ministry. The district level weather forecast for the next five days includes information about rainfall, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity and clouds.
Currently, IMD also provides weekly crop specific agro-meteorological advisories in vernacular languages to more than 28 million farmers in the country using various communication tools such as SMS, interactive voice response using agriculture ministry’s Kisan portal and through private entities such as IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited, Reliance foundation and Mahindra Samriddhi under public private partnership mode.
An agriculture ministry official said agromet advisories help farmers to make decisions on day-to-day agricultural operations. They can then plan input resources at the farm level in case of extreme weather conditions and thereby help increase crop yield.