On 9 April 2020, in Shymkent, a 30-degree Celsius heat that remained for a long time was followed by a snowfall. A sharp drop in temperature (at night to 2 degrees below zero) took local residents by surprise, given that orchards were already blooming in the city. In addition, the weather affected Almaty, Taraz, and other settlements of the southern regions of Kazakhstan, as well as Dushanbe and Tashkent.
It is not difficult to guess that such weather anomalies can affect not only the daily life of urban residents, but also the work of farmers, and to a much greater extent.
We decided to find out how accurate weather forecasting affects crop yields, how to protect oneself from various weather anomalies and how efficient mobile weather stations are.
To receive comments on these issues, we decided to contact the Union of Field Crops of Kazakhstan, which has a large base of agrarians, including the south of the country.
April snowfall in the southern regions
Photo by instagram.com/shymkent_online
As Chairman of the Union Viktor Aslanov told us, farmers were ready for those weather conditions, because weather forecasts were announced in advance in joint discussions.
“As soon as the poor weather happened, we immediately contacted the farmers and talked with representatives of Kazhydromet. What was gathered this way allays our concerns. For industrial crops, snowfall is not so terrible as a sharp drop in temperature. As it is, a drop in temperature occurred only in the mountains, high above the sea level. This anomaly did not affect field and industrial crops. Fruit plantations on the other hand quite another matter. They most likely would not be able to avoid the impact of this situation. However, we do not deal with fruits and vegetables yet, so I can’t accurately assess it”, stated Viktor Aslanov.
The role of accurate weather forecasting in harvesting
Some farmers say that Kazakhstan has a sharply continental climate, thus there is no point in predicting the weather. It can be said that they count on luck, wait for suitable days for the sowing, and just hope that serious weather anomalies do not happen.
However, according to other experts, we still have tools for obtaining fairly accurate forecasts, and for a relatively long period at that (about 3 months).
“Using a high-precision forecast can really help in obtaining a rich harvest, but only if the crop farm wants and can put such a forecast into practice,” Viktor Aslanov emphasizes.
Here it refers to the fact that some farms are trying to compensate for losses from unforeseen weather events by increasing the cultivation area. In addition, not all farms need to pay much attention to the quality of the crop, especially if they have contracts for the supply of, for example, feed crops.
“It is quite another thing if you need to get a high-quality crop and try to not have any losses. In this case, an accurate weather forecast is already of great importance. In addition, it requires the use of certain agricultural technologies, a more careful approach to planting and caring for plants”, says Victor Aslanov.
Currently, most farmers use weather forecast data from open sources, which may not always guarantee the accuracy of the information. On the other hand, a large specialized organization, Kazhydromet, operates in Kazakhstan, which provides more accurate data on a paid basis.
In a conversation with us, farmers have repeatedly stated that they cannot always afford to order such information on their own because of low budgets. It is likely that this issue can be resolved by Kazhydromet offering group packages to farmers or with government support.
Mobile weather stations
Photo by Megafon press services
Mobile weather stations installed directly in the fields can also help in obtaining high-precision weather forecasts. However, it should be clear that they vary in their technological capabilities. Thus, a high-level weather station can be of great help, because it allows for a more accurate forecast and has a large coverage area.
An important point when using such stations is the availability of access to historical data, which is usually provided by the Kazhydromet RSE. This information can be found in open sources. However, the fact remains - without such data, the station operates not at full capacity.
In addition, another key point is the quality service of such stations, because it is important not only to purchase and install the station, but also to configure it correctly.
“It would be good if there are more companies providing quality services. I saw how it all works. There is a demand for this kind of technology; it helps well in work. Especially when it comes to large farms with a wide crop rotation”, Victor Aslanov emphasizes.
Earlier we talked about similar weather stations. You can read more about this here (link to the article).
Change in climatic cycles in KazakhstanPhoto by pixabay.com
As a rule, expert forecasters operate with so-called cycles. For example, some anomaly occurs repeatedly, thus it can be predicted. But today, experts say that all these cycles have broken due to global warming. We ourselves, as ordinary residents, sometimes see that when it is not the season there is snowfall, frosts strike or abnormal heat sets in.
“What we see in the industry is for about 6 years, we have had a very watery autumn, farmers are suffering with harvesting. Somewhere it is very pronounced, somewhere less. You can also recall the serious drought in the Kostanay region last year. Therefore, I am inclined to the opinion of experts that these cycles in our country have been disrupted”, Viktor Aslanov notes.
Given the observed weather anomalies, the use of accurate weather forecasts when working on the ground is becoming increasingly necessary. However, it is worth noting that it is impossible to urgently prepare for example a drought. Therefore, even having information that there will be no rain in the next few months, it will not help in saving their harvest. Specifically in this matter, the development of irrigated agriculture is of particular importance.
The Government of Kazakhstan plans to increase irrigated land in Kazakhstan to 3.5 million ha by 2028. This should play a significant role in ensuring the food safety of the country, given that even a small irrigated plot provides several times more crop than not irrigated one. We will cover this topic in more detail in future materials.