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INSAM - The International Society for Agricultural Meteorology

Last modified April 28, 2014 07:58

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In my 45 years as an agrometeorologist I have had, and still have, four “loves”. As an experimental physicist by education (graduating with a thesis on thermal conductivity of neon at 2000 atmospheres) my first love, also in agrometeorology, was “measurements and data”. “Quantification”, as a basis for understanding the agricultural environment, mostly, but not only, in the tropics, where quantification remains relatively rare.

From a Ph.D.-thesis on porometry of leaf evaporation in the field, including contact surface thermometry, till farmer rain gauges; from standard net radiometry till surface temperatures with infra-red thermometers; from shaded Piche evaporimeters as auxiliary anemometers in agroforestry till crop thermometry; from wind tunnel calibrated sand catchers till photosynthetically active radiation; and from all kinds of basic solarimeters till thermocouple psychrometers and heated sphere anemometers in crop space. With my involvement in daily rainfall measurements by Indonesian farmers in their plots, I have still not completely left that field.

My second love were and are “agrometeorological services”, in a more recent jargon “climate services for agriculture”. From my first investigative work with Charles Baldy on tropical intercopping in the late eighties and early nineties till my “Applied Agrometeorology” (Springer, 2010), with a wealth of African, Chinese and Indian case studies. From our INSAM contest on best examples till my review in four parts that is appearing in the Italian Journal of Agrometeorology this year, this is the most relevant work in agroclimatology that I have ever been engaged in. Because it is ultimately what we see developed, used and improved by and through farmers that counts as real merits for the applied agrometeorologist.

My third love is “agricultural extension”, of course in particular in agrometeorology. We can work on what we want in applied sciences, it does not really count till some of that acquired knowledge and understanding is applied in farmers’ fields. And to get there, we need well trained extension intermediaries. See my first INSAM homepage story of this year. In our present work in Indonesia we have learned that such training must start with the institutes that create the agrometeorological products that have to be made into the climate services for agriculture. Failing there means that the basis for such training is lacking. However, for the time being we have found in Indonesia that our experiments with “Science Field Shops” can be used to much advantage in “agrometeorological learning” till that other training materializes. Again see my January homepage text.

My fourth and final but not my least love is “agroforestry”, or in a newer jargon “trees outside the forest”. People at CIFOR recently reviewed that agroforestry and the deliberate use of trees was framed over 30 years ago, as an alternative to “open field” agriculture. It must become a major pathway for agricultural intensification, recognizing as well the roles farmers play in domesticating forests. The possibility of addressing all land use issues on climate change in an integrated fashion deserves full attention and support, they say. Because in reality the landscapes where farmers and forest-edge communities make a living cannot be readily dissected. Partners for Resilience/Wetlands International recently stated that for this possibility, integrating all existing and new landscape ecosystems in a complex climate adaptation oriented resilience approach looks most promising but also most demanding.

The 120 pages of the section “Applied agrometeorology of non-forest trees” (pp. 651- 770) in my “Applied Agrometeorology” were the first of its kind. I am presently working on the draft of a Chapter “Agroforestry and (Micro)Climate Change” for the second edition of “Ong et al. (eds., 2014) Tree/Crop Interactions” (CABI). I am fully convinced that only by the massive inclusion of trees in a participatory/collaborative raising and nursing of trees in the agricultural environment, will we be able to remain close to decently feeding all the inhabitants of this planet.

Dear INSAM members,
it is a great pleasure to let you know that we have found Prof. René Gommes, formerly among others for a long time at FAO, Rome, and presently working for the
Digital Agriculture Division in the Chinese Academy of Sciences
in Beijing, prepared to take up the position of “current president” of INSAM for the next four years, starting 1 May 2014. He will be assisted by a newly established Steering Committee of which, among others, the present staff of INSAM, including most of the present vice-presidents and correspondents, and myself, as founding president, will be members. I know Prof. Gommes since the early eighties, when both of us worked in Tanzania, and I consider him as presently by far the most suitable person to be only the second current president of INSAM. I count on you to continue your support.

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