May 2018 smartGOV_eMagazine_May2018 - Page 29

Sowing date as such is very critical to ensure that farmers harvest a good crop. And if it fails, it results in loss as a lot of costs are incurred for seeds, as well as the fertilizer applications.” – Dr. Suhas P. Wani, Director, Asia Region, ICRISAT a feature phone capable of receiving text messages. Flashback to June 2016. While other farmers were busy sowing their crops in Devanakonda Mandal in Kurnool district in AP, G. Chinnavenkateswarlu, a farmer from Bairavanikunta village, decided to wait. Instead of sowing his groundnut crop during the first week of June, as traditional agricultural wisdom would have dictated, he chose to sow three weeks later, on June 25, based on an advisory he received in a text message. Chinnavenkateswarlu was part of a pilot program that ICRISAT and Microsoft were running for 175 farmers in the state. The program sent farmers text messages on sowing advisories, such as the sowing date, land preparation, soil test based fertilizer application, and so on. For centuries, farmers like Chinnavenkateswarlu had been using age-old methods to predict the right sowing date. Mostly, they’d choose to sow in early June to take advantage of the monsoon season, which typically lasted from June to August. But the changing weather patterns in the past decade have led to unpredictable monsoons, causing poor crop yields. “I have three acres of land and sowed groundnut based on the sowing recommendations provided. My crops were harvested on October 28 last year, and the yield was about 1.35 ton per hectare. Advisories provided for land preparation, sowing, and need-based plant protection proved to be very useful to me,” says Chinnavenkateswarlu, who along with the 174 others achieved an average of 30% higher yield per hectare last year. To calculate the crop-sowing period, historic climate data spanning over 30 years, from 1986 to 2015 for the Devanakonda area in Andhra Pradesh was analyzed using AI. To determine the optimal sowing period, the Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI) was calculated. MAI is the standardized measure used for assessing the degree of adequacy of rainfall and soil moisture to meet the potential water requirement of crops. The real-time MAI is calculated from the daily rainfall recorded and reported by the Andhra Pradesh State Development Planning Society. The future MAI is calculated from weather forecasting models for the area provided by USA-based aWhere Inc. This data is then downscaled to build predictability, and guide farmers to pick the ideal sowing week, which in the pilot program was estimated to start from June 24 that year. Ten sowing advisories were initiated and disseminated until the harvesting was completed. The advisories contained essential information including the optimal sowing date, soil test based fertilizer application, farm yard manure application, seed treatment, optimum 29 | May 2018 | www.smartgovernance.in