Accuracy in the weather information provided by Varuna Mitra, the 24×7 help desk launched by the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, has helped farmers realise average net gain of Rs 5,106 per acre, according to a study.
Launched in 2010, Varuna Mitra provides weather forecast at the gram panchayat level for the benefit of farmers and the public. It provides forecast on rainfall, temperature, humidity, wind speed and its direction three days in advance.
Data was collected from 1,350 farmers across nine districts of high (over 1,200 mm), moderate (600 to 1,200 mm) and low rainfall (less than 600 mm) regions covering eight agro-climatic zones during 2016-17 in the State. It revealed that accuracy in weather forecast enabled reduction in cost of cultivation and post-harvest loss, improvements in crop yield, and net incomes.
The study “Economic impact evaluation of Varuna Mitra on agriculture” conducted by A.V. Manjunatha, assistant professor, Centre for Ecological Economics and Natural Resources, ISEC, Bengaluru, said 63% of farmers had received accurate prediction of weather.
Decrease in cost of cultivation was reported by 49% of farmers, 50% said they increased yield, 53% increased the net income, and 40% recorded post-harvest losses Yield improvements were highest in jowar (16%) followed by ragi (9%) and coffee (8%).
Arecanut growers used most of the facility since incidence of rain during the harvest period could increase the moisture content in arecanut, thereby lowering quality and price, said the study.
Weather information helped coffee growers to reduce the cost by Rs 6,273 per acre followed by arecanut farmers (Rs 2,571), tomato growers (Rs 2,218) and mango growers (Rs 1,268). The decrease was mainly because farmers took up spraying of chemicals to control diseases based on the rainfall forecast. With a forecast, farmers could cancel irrigating the crop, thereby saving cost, Prof Manjunatha said.
The highest incremental net gain per acre was realised by arecanut growers (Rs 12,727) and coffee growers (Rs 11,118). Highest incremental yield was observed in tomato (1.59 quintal), jowar (1.28 quintal), and mango (1.2 quintal).
At the State level, forecast information has led to an annual incremental gain of ₹495.3 crore for all area covered under Varuna Mitra.
Owing to erratic monsoons, 84% of farmers from high rainfall districts, 50% from moderate rainfall districts and 39% from low rainfall districts indicated accuracy in information received from the agency on rainfall.
During 2016-17, a total of 1.76 lakh people made 10.42 lakh calls. A majority of farmers sought information on agriculture (90%), followed by horticulture (9%), animal husbandry (0.4%), and sericulture (0.6%), the study said.