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example, creates issues of access and social
equity; improved watershed development
affects users downstream.
Viewed this way, water, Dr Hearn says, is one
of the world's biggest challenges in agriculture.
This is reflected by the increasing tendency for
farmers and researchers to talk about yield per
litre or megalitre in addition to the traditional
measure of yield per acre.
And with water one of the resources most
affected by climate change, farmers' yields per
acre and per litre become a focal point beyond
Managing risk is a major preoccupation of
farmers worldwide. As climate change brings
increasing variability to farming conditions,
those risks become more pronounced.
Often it is those farmers with the least
resources who are most at risk. They work in
more vulnerable areas. They are at the end
of water supply lines. Their food security is
tenuous in good times.
A project developing climate-change
adaptation strategies aims to modify crop-
modelling systems used in Australia to Andhra
Pradesh---a state in central India where
agriculture is largely centred on small, rainfed,
The modelling system is based on the online
tool Yield Prophet, developed by CSIRO and
BCG (formerly the Birchip Cropping Group).
Indian partner organisations using the system
can generate information that can help farmers
adjust their cropping regimes in line with water
and nitrogen availability, both before and
during the growing season.
"Ultimately we want farmers to be able to
track the season as it goes, more or less in real
time, to make decisions more tightly linked to
how the season is progressing," says project
leader Dr Christian Roth, from CSIRO's Climate
But Dr Roth says perhaps the biggest risk
to rainfed farming is brought about by climate
Crop-simulation models such as Yield
Prophet---which provide yield predictions
based on climate data, soil moisture and
nutrient levels---can help mitigate those risks
by helping farmers decide if they should invest
further in their crop or cut their losses.
"As the season progresses, you can model
changed weather conditions to come
up with more rigorous predictions and
recommendations," Dr Roth says.
Developing a more strategic approach to
managing water when it is available becomes
more important, says Dr Roth. "So one of the
questions we will assess in our project is, 'If you
had access to a little bit of irrigation, when is the
best time to use that water?' And if you don't
have access to irrigation water, this is where
seasonal forecasting can really make a difference.
Farmers can adjust their management according
to better knowledge about the season ahead."
Initially the focus is understanding farmers
and their livelihoods, and collaboration with
farmer groups to discuss climate variability and
the resources they have---or need---to deal
with it. This will help inform options related to
seasonal recommendations. On-farm research
experiments in the next season will then be
established and monitored.
In India, much work has centred on improving
the dissemination of information contained
in advisories already being generated in
rainfed areas of Andhra Pradesh by the Indian
Meteorology Department and distributed by
the Agro-Met cell of the Acharya N.G. Ranga
Understanding farmers' needs and the viability
of associated options can ensure the agro-
advisories are even better tailored. This will be
enhanced by the work of a social anthropologist
associated with the project, who spent four
months on the ground interviewing farmers
about their enterprises and livelihood strategies.
Three villages in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal,
Nalgonda and Mahabubnagar districts now
receive twice-weekly medium-range forecasts
customised to weather scenarios. Farmer groups
meet twice a month to discuss the seasonal
effects on crops and provide feedback on the
advisories and accuracy of the weather forecasts.
These activities are facilitated by a collaborating
non-government organisation, WASSAN.
Already the information has been used to
fine-tune the timing of sowing, paddy harvest
and the application of insecticide to control
Dr Zvi Hochman, a CSIRO team member
who helped establish Yield Prophet in Australia,
plans for the agro-advisories to eventually
be underpinned by Yield Prophet-type
modelling. That will mean that the impact of a
changing weather situation on crop prospects
can be modelled to deliver predictions on
"We see an opportunity to value-add to the
agro-advisories," he says. "We want to make
them more systematic and effective."
(Above) CSIRO's Dr Zvi Hochman (right) and
G. Srinivas (left) from the Acharya N.G. Ranga
Agricultural University using soil augurs for
moisture and nitrogen content measurement in
a farmer's field.
(Left) Farmers in Nemmani village in Bangladesh
study weather forecast information.
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