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Weather lessons for farmers

Bhagwan Bhalerao, a grape farmer in Solapur, has bought himself a pencil, a notebook and a school bag.

mumbai Updated: Feb 01, 2010 00:53 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Bhagwan Bhalerao, a grape farmer in Solapur, has bought himself a pencil, a notebook and a school bag.

He is one of the 400 farmers in the state getting ready to take lessons to adapt to erratic weather patterns.

The Hyderabad-based All India Coordinated Research Project on Agrometeorology (AICRPAM), an initiative funded by the Centre, has set up four centres in Maharashtra — Akola, Parbhani, Dapoli and Solapur — to prepare farmers to deal with climate change.

Having lost half of his produce last year to unseasonal rain, Bhalerao is looking forward to the lessons.

“I badly need help. We have been blindly spending thousands of rupees on pesticides with little results,” said the 44-year-old.

The programme that kicks off on February 14 will give tips to farmers on deciding the time of harvest, usage of pesticides and dealing with fluctuating temperatures on the basis of the weather forecast.

“A sudden drop in temperature is likely after heavy rainfall, making it a vulnerable period for a common crop disease. We will guide farmers for a timely use of pesticides in such a case,” said H. Venkatesh, senior professor with the AICRPAM.

Rainfall patterns are likely to get erratic, say climate scientists.

“Projections for the next five years show that the number of rainy days could decrease but the amount of rainfall would be the same,” said K. Krishnakumar, programme director (climate change), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

The four centres will also provide localised short-term weather forecasts to farmers. Currently, India Meteorological Department (IMD) gives

district-wise forecasts over five days. “If we tell the farmer that heavy rain is expected on a particular evening, he will not spray expensive fertilisers because it could be washed away by the rain,” added Venkatesh.

This model worked well for hundreds of farmers in Karnataka last year.

Unseasonal rainfall brought by Cyclone Phyan last November damaged crops in several areas of the state.

Karnataka farmers, however, got away with minor losses. “Despite incessant rainfall for six days, crops in Karnataka were saved,” added Venkatesh.