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INSAM homepage until March 2009

Last modified March 30, 2009 11:12

INSAM homepage until March 2009.

After several years of annual travel through a series of provinces of China, my counterpart, Prof. Zheng Dawei, of the China Agricultural University’s Department of Agrometeorology, and I finally convinced the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) in Beijing of the merits of our plans on identifying and researching existing agrometeorological services in China. So we have been allowed to analyze the practicing of such agrometeorological services.

In some of these provinces (Inner Mongolia in the north, Ningxia in the west, Hebei around Beijing) we now recently came for the fourth time for this purpose. In others we came less often, but now we obtained well organized support and collaboration everywhere. In places where we had not yet been that often, I lectured on “Agrometeorological services in various parts of the world, under conditions of a changing climate”, in the others on “Institutionalization of extension in coping with natural disasters”.

During my more than 30 years of research work and teaching in Africa, I got convinced that establishment of agrometeorological services is making the difference between “sense” and “non-sense” (in the literal meaning of the word) in agrometeorology. In my more than 15 years of such work in Asia, I got convinced that the best examples actually practised are to be found there, particularly in China and (still to a lesser extent) in India.

However, access and local languages, as well as strong disinterest from mainstream agrometeorological science, were and are tremendous barriers to identification and researching of operational examples, from which we want to learn the strong and weak sides and that can be considered for improvements in contents and dissemination.

Under “Accounts of Operational Agrometeorology” we have now put five information sheets on ten recently identified agrometeorological services in these five provinces in China. In Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, this is about crop and variety planning as well as on spring wheat sowing advices in melting frozen soils. In Ningxia Autonomous Region, they are about improving microclimate for water melon in a dry mountainous area and fungus disease forecasting in wolfberries.

In Jiangxi Province in southern China, planning the growing of navel oranges and their protection is dealt with together with relay cropping of late rice into lotus. In Henan Province, central China, services deal with more accurate determination of water saving supplementary irrigation of wheat and the forecasting of peony flowering for commercial activities. While in Hebei Province winter straw mulching of wheat and early warning of less sunshine and related low temperatures for winter vegetables in simple but very popular plastic greenhouses are the subjects.

First lessons to be learned from Inner Mongolia but also more generally indeed are the necessity of a strong co-operation between meteorological and agronomical offices to generate and combine trustable data, and the importance of well organizing how to reach farmers with the information available/needed. Also the regional character of many of these services is confirmed there, with the approaches developed being of more general interest. It was also learned that in developing rural areas the agrometeorological services concerned can for the time being often best be organized by the government. Indeed, response farming appears necessary in many cases in which actual conditions are followed for updating of the preliminary advices given earlier in (or before) a season.

One of the other lessons, particularly taught this way in Ningxia and wanted in Inner Mongolia, is the importance of applied research, supporting and geared to the solution of farmers’ problems, that push the research efforts. This is in line with what I proposed in my policy paper for the 50th anniversary of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in October last year and also published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment in 2008.

After having found so many examples now, it would be very helpful if studies were also made into the efficiency of the information channels and the opinion of farmers on the services and these channels. And also on eventual alternatives or additions in services and information channels, in the ways suggested by the work of myself, Tan Ying et al. as presented in the CAgM workshop in New Delhi in 2006.

Another lesson learned, in Jiangxi as well as Henan, is one of economically successful adaptations to a changing climate. This is a warning for any scenarios projecting present cropping systems into the future and detailing their suffering from climate change. There are many ways for adaptation through agrometeorological services, and farmers are keen to innovate and follow up.

We were also running into a few cases, in Henan and Hebei, where not yield increase but water use efficiency was the real gain, providing another lesson from such services. Finally, there is the lesson, from Hebei and more generally, of the importance of simply using existing and improved general - and of course where possible special - weather forecasts and short range climate forecasts explicitly for providing the required information as an agrometeorological service. For details see the five new information sheets on this website.

The above accounts may stimulate some members to participate in the presently running INSAM contest for best examples of agrometeorological services on which details can still be found in the Agromet Market Place of April 2008. There is only one month left!

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