Across the planet, from the plains of North America to the mountains of Southeast Asia and everywhere in between, farmers have bred crops that thrive in each area uniquely well. In areas that are dry, farmers have bred for drought tolerance. For areas that are hot, heat tolerance. For places with extreme winter, shorter growing seasons. However, as the world’s climate becomes more variable and the weather in places becomes different from what it historically has been, these cultivars become less and less effective in producing consistently high yields – yields which farmers rely upon to provide food, fiber, and income for themselves and their families.
In order to help farmers find ways to mitigate the issues they face due to a more variable climate and to feed not only themselves but their communities and the world, aWhere, Inc. has developed a unique Agronomics-Weather Index to identify the places globally that farmers are facing the most challenging weather for ideal crop growth using a combination of high resolution weather data and knowledge about how farming is done in every corner of the globe. Because it’s not enough to simply look at where the weather might have exceeded 45* C or where it has rained more than 20 mm/day to know where farmers are facing weather based challenges, this index looks at how that weather differs from what is normal to determine where farmers’ crops and, therefore, yields are most likely faltering. The index accounts for the different weather needs of various crops, the differences in season start dates from one year to the next for areas in the world that rely upon rainfed agriculture, whether an area relies on irrigated or rainfed agriculture, and the conventional agronomic practices within a region. The index works by studying what the weather is normally like for every place across the planet using aWhere’s complete and global weather data, and then determining whether any deviations would likely affect a crop based upon when they occur during the cropping cycle and their severity. Furthermore, this index can be used in real time to track the progress of a crop as the growing season progresses. This approach marries a nuanced understanding of agriculture with a big data approach to problem solving; a marriage that aWhere leads the industry in executing.
aWhere’s Agronomics-Weather Index can be used by governments, NGOs, and private firms to identify the places across a region, country, or continent that are most likely to be experiencing poor weather for farming the areas’ traditional varieties of crops, and where that poor weather is negatively impacting yields. As an example of how this tool may be applied on a broad scale, Figure 1 above shows the cumulative rainfall totals on a state level for India through the beginning of the 2015 Monsoon Season according to the India Meteorological Department, Ministry of Earth Sciences. In India, the monsoon season marks the beginning of greatest time of agricultural productivity and receiving adequate rainfall in necessary for good crop germination and later development. The map indicates that many regions of the country experienced abnormally dry conditions. One of the major crops India produces that relies upon adequate rainfall for proper development is cotton; it is grown throughout the country and relies primarily on rainfed cultivation in the central and south, and irrigated cultivation in the north. Figure 2 below is an assessment of where the 2015 Cotton Crop experienced the most beneficial weather across the country using aWhere’s Agronomics-Weather Index. The index identified the long term effect of early season dryness in the rainfed areas on the cotton crop, while also identifying more ideal of weather conditions in the northern areas that instead relied upon irrigation to supplement any deficit in precipitation relative to normal. Unfortunately for farmers in this area, these ideal conditions for cotton growth also exacerbated problems related to white fly infestations that occurred throughout the region.