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Applied Agrometeorology

Last modified May 30, 2011 08:34

“Applied Agrometeorology”, a book on agrometeorological services and the new applied science supporting them. (Springer, Heidelberg etc., 2010: xxxviii + 1101 pp.).

By Prof. Kees Stigter, founding president of the International Society for Agricultural Meteorology (

Handing over lecture of a copy of the book to the Chinese Meteorological Administration (CMA) Training Centre & Library, on 20 May 2011 and the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) Agrometeorology Department, on 25 May 2011,  both in Beijing, as long term collaborators in the Asian Picnic Model Project (APMP), started in 1996 at Wageningen University and Research Center (WUR), the Netherlands, and continued from 2001 till the present by Agromet Vision, Bondowoso (Indonesia) and Bruchem (the Netherlands). A third copy has officially been made available in Beijing on 29 May 2011 to the Chinese Society of Agrometeorology (CSA), Chinese Association of Agricultural Science Societies (CAASS), to facilitate its translation into Chinese.





Applied agrometeorology is basically about solving problems with agrometeorological components in agricultural production. In my book “Applied Agrometeorology”, after 85 pages of  Introduction, the 30 examples of operational agrometeorological services in Part II (each of between 4 and 8 pages)
are extension agrometeorology.


Fields of application in agrometeorology in Part III deal with bedrock material for existing or new agromet services. This elaborate Part III forms half of the book and also the connection with climate change consequences. It is the new applied agrometeorology. The basic sciences come in, in Part IV, representatively used as scientific support systems. But as methods that are tools and approaches successfully used in applications leading to agrometeorological services.


In the book we pretend, that if we succeed in creating such weather services, consequences of climate change can be faced with much more confidence than presently is the case. Science, and not only climate change science, has a role to play. But only when acknowledging the present livelihood crises of the poor and giving priority to policy preparations and policy mandate matters related to those crises; and to science only in that context (Sachs, 2005; Stigter, 2006).


This is the way that agrometeorology can be used with and for farmers. Crisis in the livelihood of farmers worsened by increasing climate variability drives the search for solutions (extension agrometeorology!) which drives support systems in agrometeorology.


I am starting the book by stating that applied agrometeorology should not start
with agrometeorology but with the conditions of where it should be applied. Because such conditions in the livelihood of farmers differ tremendously, even within a small region of a country or within a village, and between farming systems in that same sub-region or village, we have always to deal with case studies.


Such case studies on famers’ applications of agrometeorological services
and information have to be collected locally by Universities, Research Institutes and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) [and eventually other Environmental Services in agriculture]. They are the three main players in generating knowledge from data and research for feeding education/ training/extension as well as policies. Among them these are ultimately the four support systems to public and commercial agrometeorological services.   


History of the APMP


And it is with these three players that I have sought collaboration on collecting such case studies in China. CAU, as the University, CAAS, as the Research Institute, CMA, as the NMHS with many provincial players, initially particularly in Inner Mongolia but also in Chongqing and Yunnan. Later on players from several Provincial Meteorological Bureaus.


Since 1996 I worked in China. I did 12 missions, most often of between one and two months, in more than 10 provinces. The latest ones, in five provinces, were in 2007 and 2008 and we worked for the last two years to get the results on paper. China came closest to our ideals of farmer oriented services, but much can use improvements. My main counterparts in China were Prof. Zheng Dawei, CAU, Beijing and Prof. Mei Xurong, CAAS, Beijing.Towards the end also: Prof. Wang Shili, Ma Yuping, Xiao Hongxian, CMA, Beijing. Many provincial agrometeorologists, of which long term Prof. Liu Jing (Ningxia), Li Chunqiang (Hebei), Li Yingchun (Jiangxi), Hou Qiong and Wei Yurong (Innner Mongolia).


All these people have played an important role in shaping my work in China.
Originally I proposed to collect examples of traditional knowledge, like I did in Africa from 1975 till 1999. This did, however, not get enough support locally
nor from funding organizations tried. However, there was some success in Yunnan/Chongqing. My last years at Wageningen, before retirement, were mainly spent on wind erosion problems in Inner Mongolia, with Prof. Zheng Dawei, but we also started work on local agrometeorological services from 2004 onwards. We initially particularly succeeded in Ningxia (Liu Jing), Hebei (Li Chunqiang) and Inner Mongolia (Wei Yurong). With the last mentioned two I succeeded in submitting prize winning cases to the INSAM contest of best examples of agrometeorological services from 2005 till 2007.


Based on these small successes, we then, against all odds, succeeded to mount a project core funded by CMA, with contributions from CAU and  APMP (Asian Picnic Model Project). My main problem has remained that never ever was something on these endeavors put in writing in English officially by CMA. However, in the end, with the collaboration of Prof. Zheng Dawei, Prof. Wang Shili, Mr. Ma Yuping and Mr. Xiao Hongxian, we had English language translations of ten case studies from China (in addition to the earlier INSAM ones). For these examples we used the protocol form I had developed for the INSAM contest.


Chinese case studies


The 10 Chinese cases now form, with the 20 INSAM case studies, the Part II of
“Applied Agrometeorology” and very good ones indeed. I wrote them together for the sake of comparisons and edited the final English. We wanted to get into a situation in which examples showed that, in a “farmer first paradigm”, livelihood problems and farmer decision-making needs do actually guide the bottom-up design of actual services.


After developing two Roving Seminars about agrometeorological services (each of about one week) that I now already gave 18 times in 11 countries,  I developed a third Roving Seminar at the end of 2010, partly based on other material in “Applied Agrometeorology” that I tried out in 2011 in Indonesia and South Africa. The following Chinese examples I am using in that Roving Seminar, as composed from the case studies in “Applied Agrometeorology”:



- Frost forecast service for Inner Mongolia (China) in 2007

by Mrs. Wei Yurong, Inner Mongolia Meteorological Bureau/Administration, Huhhohaote, Inner Mongolia, China. It got the third prize in the INSAM contest of 2007;



- Furrow planting and ridge covering with plastic for drought relief in semi-arid regions (China)

by Li Chunqiang, Provincial Meteorological Administration, Hebei, China. It got the fifth honorary mention in the INSAM contest of 2007;



- Advisory and service system of crop and variety planning in Xing’an (Inner Mongolia AR)


by Hou Qiong, Tang Hongyan, Niu Baoliang  (Xing’an Met. Bureau, Inner Mongolian Meteorological Administration, Wulanhaote and Huhhohaote).

- Sowing advice for spring wheat depending on frost melting in the autumn irrigated top soil in Bayannur (Inner Mongolia AR)
by Hou Qiong and Yang Song (Bayannur Meteorological Bureau, Inner Mongolian Meteorological Administration, Byannur and Huhhohaote).


- Improving microclimate for water melon by covering sandy soils with pebbles (Ningxia AR)

by Liu Jing (Ningxia AR Meteorological Bureau, Yinchuan, Ningxia). This is a now famous case study I used in earlier Roving Seminars.



- Forecasting fungus disease conditions for wolfberries (Ningxia AR)

by Liu Jing (Ningxia AR Meteorological Bureau, Yinchuan, Ningxia).



- Refined agroclimatic zoning for planning and growing navel oranges, and protection advisory services after planting (Jiangxi)

by Li Yingchun (Jiangxi Provincial Meteorological Administration, Nanchang, Jiangxi).



- Demonstration and extension of relay intercropping of late rice into lotus, enhanced by climate change (Jiangxi)

by Li Yingchun (Jiangxi Provincial Meteorological Administration, Nanchang, Jiangxi).


- Early warning of low temperatures and less sunshine for crops in plastic greenhouses in winter (Hebei, China)

by Li Chunqiang (Hebei Provincial Meteorological Administration, Shijiazhuang, Hebei).



- Water saving irrigation determined by soil moisture forecasting for wheat farms in the Huang-Huai Plane, Henan

by Yu Weidong (Henan Provincial Meteorological Administration, Zhengzhou, Henan).

- Forecasting peony flowering periods for various varieties and places in Luoyang city, Henan
by Yu Weidong (Henan Provincial Meteorological Administration, Zhengzhou, Henan).



Final remarks


To end this short presentation, I only highlight two more main issues of “Applied Agrometeorology”. Trees outside forests are a crucial and core element of agroforestry systems, silvopastoral systems, and urban, rural and community forestry. Trees outside forests are found in most rural landscapes and many agroforestry systems. Even granting that agroforestry is an ancient art, there is a newly enhanced awareness of  the importance of trees outside forests in climate and food production. FAO lists agroforestry as an agricultural measure in its role in Disaster Risk Reduction. This is the first connecting principle in the new applied agrometeorology (Stigter et al., 2011).


One of my third Roving Seminar presentations (with material on “Communication approaches in applied agrometeorology” by René Gommes et al., FAO, Rome, in “Applied Agrometeorology”) is on a second connecting principle in the new applied agrometeorology: Communication (Stigter et al., 2011). The purpose then is to increase, with farmers as decision makers, the awareness on potential climate hazards and climate related hazards and their mitigation in general; with a strong wish to reduce vulnerability by preparedness.


The role of applied agrometeorology in combating disasters is to use the understanding that basic science has reached on the most important hazards endangering crop growth in a region as well as on possibilities for their mitigation, to have extension make farmers aware of these situations and their own vulnerabilities. However, the relationships between those mitigations
and their consequences still need to be quantified to a greater degree, to convince many decision makers of the true value of that information. There is still need for extending the fields of applied agrometeorology.


And with these words of explanation, I want to hand over a copy of this book for which our collaboration over the years has delivered some very good and instructive examples of agrometeorological services.





Sachs J (2005). The end of poverty. Economic possibilities for our time.

Penguin/Allen Lane, London etc., pp. 396.


Stigter CJ (2006). A contemporary history of the development of a new

approach to applied agrometeorology. Available at the INSAM web site ( under the topic “History of Agrometeorology”.


Stigter, Kees, Sue Walker, HP Das, Samsul Huda, Zheng Dawei, Liu Jing, Li Chunqiang, Ismabel M Dominguez-Hurtado, Ahmed E Mohammed, Ahmed T Abdalla, Nageeb I Bakheit, Nawal KN Al-Amin, Wei Yurong, Josiah M Kinama, Durton Nanja, Pieter D Haasbroek (2011). Meeting farmers’ needs for agrometeorological services: an overview and case studies. Paper presented at the WMO/CAgM Workshop “Addressing the livelihood crisis of farmers: weather and climate services”. Belo Horizonte, Brazil, July 2010. To be published in the Workshop Proceedings.

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