Weather awareness of island farmers needs improvement: CIARI

Port Blair
27 Feb 2017

The performance of monsoon is the major natural phenomena deciding the agricultural production and water resources of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  The analysis of 60 years of climatic data indicated total annual rainfall of 3100 mm but a deficit of about 610 mm is experienced during January-April.
But the climate of the Islands is not static as seen from the recent changes in weather parameters over these islands says CIARI weather analysis report.  The study of climatic pattern by the agromet unit of ICAR-CIARI, Port Blair highlighted decreasing trend in rainfall and rainy days over the Islands particularly during post-monsoon seasons.  It also decreases from south to North.
During January - March in 2013 only 11.2 mm of rainfall was received as against the climatic normal of 81 mm in 6 rainy days. That year turned out to be the driest year which experienced one of the largest dry spell experienced in the Island.  The average rainfall and rainy days during January to April in the last four years has come down.
Surprisingly still the island received the normal total rainfall.  It means there is a change in the distribution pattern of the rainfall.  Say for example, till May 2016 we had 60% deficit rainfall and by the end of August it reduced to 15% deficit.  Due to the cyclonic weather developed during December the island received heavy downpour which made up the total rainfall.   But the rainy days are less in Jan-Feb 2017 and expected to be dry in the coming months.
This has serious consequences for the agricultural production in these islands.  First, it affects the standing rice crop in November-December and the preparatory work for early vegetable production.  Secondly, it brings uncertainty for the sowing of pulse crop followed by damage to the standing vegetables particularly in North and Middle Andaman.  In the last three years long dry spell experienced during Feb- March resulted in the nut falling and drying up of crown in arecanut which is the most important commercial crop of Andaman.  In certain areas, the dry spell resulted in change in pest and disease equilibrium causing reduction in yield.
Though insurance cover is expected to provide some amount of relief to the farmer but that is justified only during natural extremes.  Because managing our natural resources in these islands is still within the reach of agricultural planning and its effective implementation at farmers’ field.   It is advised that enhanced efforts are essential for localized harvest and storage of rainwater in addition to recharge of ground water resources and moisture stress management to gear up ourselves for any climate change effects in the future.
Agriculture should move towards more climate resilient crops and land management practices.   Adequate support and awareness creation among the farmers is vital to sustain the crop production besides livestock and aquaculture.  Farmers can get free weekly advice through SMS from the agromet unit of CIARI which operates in collaboration with IMD,  Pune and Ministry of Agriculture, GOI.