The dangers to the natural resource base, crops, and livestock that have a meteorological component include pollution of soil and air; soil erosion from wind or water; the incidence and effects of drought; crop growth; animal production; the incidence and extent of pests and diseases; the inci dence, frequency, and extent of frost; the dangers of forest or bush fires; losses during storage and transport; and all farm operations. Agrometeo-rology offers practical solutions for harnessing climate potential and for protection against or avoidance of climate-related risks.
The role of agrometeorology is both strategic and tactical. The strategic role is involved in the assessment of long-term utilization of natural resources in the development of crop diversity. The tactical role is more concerned with the short-term and field-scale decisions that directly influence crop growth and development. If communicated to the right client and applied, agrometeorological information can help farmers practice sustainable, high-quality, more profitable agriculture, with fewer risks, lower costs, and less environmental pollution and damage (Rijks and Baradas, 2000).
Of the total annual crop losses in world agriculture, a large percentage is due to direct weather effects such as drought, flash floods, untimely rains, frost, hail, and storms. Losses in harvest and storage, as well as those due to parasites, insects, and plant diseases, are highly influenced by the weather (Mavi, 1994). When specifically tailored weather information is readily available to the needs of agriculture, it greatly contributes toward making short-term adjustments in daily agricultural operations, which minimize losses resulting from adverse weather conditions and improve the yield and quality of agricultural products. Tailored weather information also provides guidelines for long-range or seasonal planning and the selection of crops most suited to anticipated climatic conditions (Newman, 1974; Ogallo, Boulahya, and Keane, 2000). Most decisions in livestock enterprises involve a considerable lag between decisions and their effects. Some decisions affect the product three to four years in the future (Plant, 2000). A long-range forecast is a very good climate risk-management tool which helps increase livestock production (Anonymous, 2000). Seasonal climate forecasts can play an important role in shaping the economic polices of governments. For example, with a forecast of a major drought, economic growth would be less than expected. By taking serious note of the forecast, monetary policy could be relaxed to maintain growth targets (White, 2000).
Other applications of agrometeorology are through improvement in techniques based on sound interpretation of meteorological knowledge. These include irrigation and water allocation strategies; shelter from wind or cold; shade from excessive heat; antifrost measures, including the choice of site; antierosion measures; soil cover and mulching; plant cover using glass or plastic materials; artificial climates of growth chambers or heated structures; animal housing and management; climate control in storage and transport; and efficient use of herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers. Agro-meteorological models can be used in efficient land-use planning; determining suitable crops for a region; risk analysis of climatic hazards and profit calculations in farming; production or harvest forecasts; and the adoption of farming methods and the choice of effective farm machinery.
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