The relationship between weather forecasts and agricultural productivity
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Did you know that if a forecasting indicates a knocking flash flood, it is better to harvest crop even if 60-75% of the crops are matured? Harvesting will help in averting total loss. In 2018, At least 21,000 hectares (51,892 acres) with 168,000 metric tons of unharvested rice was washed away in Nigeria due to floods. Could this have been prevented with accurate forecasts?
Weather is the prime uncertain factor that dictates crop growth and development in agriculture. Having forecasts means, in advance, you have with you the information on the weather (rainfall, temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, dew, etc.) that is going to affect your crop in the coming days. So, given the weather forecast, you can foresee in advance your crop growth and development and take measures to increase crop productivity depending on your resource status.
If a farmer has water (irrigated agriculture), the temperature is the primary uncertain factor affecting their crop growth. If that farmer's crops are rain-fed, both rainfall and temperature are uncertain factors affecting crop growth and development. Other weather variables like wind, dew, solar radiation are all important too.
In irrigated agriculture, the amount of rainfall and temperature determine the amounts of irrigation water and when it needs to be applied –irrigation scheduling. In rain-fed systems, the amount and timing of rainfall determines crop growth and development, thus timing of fertilizer applications, herbicide, and other pest and disease control measures.
In the tropics, crop yield fluctuates significantly from year to year, more so because of the variable distribution of rainfall than from the total received. High rainfall at the beginning of growing periods and its absence at later stages of crop growth and development could significantly reduce yields, even when the total rainfall during the growing seasons is normal and adequate for high crop yields.
Amount and time distribution of rainfall events combined with temperature fluctuations affect pest and disease dynamics. Rainfall is also an important factor for the timing of harvest operations and all other post-harvest activities.
Weather forecasts that give seasonal, monthly and daily outlooks are the right tools for the small holder farmer who is uncertain of the weather. Equipped with this information, losses such as that of the the Nigerian rice farmers can be reduced or even totally avoided.