CAO: Forecasting A Critical Tool For Agricultural Sector

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Acting Chief Agricultural Officer,??Dr. Denis Blackman (FP)

The importance of weather and climate related data to the agricultural sector can never be understated.

This is the view of Acting Chief Agricultural Officer,??Dr. Denis Blackman, who stressed that Barbadians should not only perceive forecasting as a tool for daily news reports and for its impact on the tourism product.

Speaking this morning during the 2nd Caribbean Agro-Meteorological Initiative (CAMI) Farmers’ Forum at the Barbados Olympic Association’s Headquarters, in Wildey, he pointed out that there were several long-term benefits from studying weather and climate data, particularly its impact on the growth and development of certain crops.

"Yes, we want the tourists to come here but we also want the rain to fall and we want to know when it will fall and what the humidity will be at a given time. We don’t always want to focus on tomorrow or the next day, but we want to know what will happen six months or even a year from now. That is what is really important," Dr. Blackman explained.

The CAO (Ag) further stated that while forecasting and research were critical in terms of crop development, the impact on the livestock sector was equally as important.

"We have now selective varieties that are more sensitive than ever. Years ago our crop and livestock varieties were not very productive, but were not as sensitive to weather conditions as the ones we have today. We have selective varieties and breeds

that are highly productive – four, five or even 10 times more than before – but they are very sensitive to weather conditions," he underlined.

This, Dr. Blackman noted, was an added expense and risk to the modern farmer and as such, the use of weather and climate related data would be a critical aspect in the running of any farm.

"If a farmer has a facility for chickens which is 20,000 sq. ft., then he wants to know whether to buy 20,000 birds for the ideal placement of one bird per sq. ft., or if the temperature and humidity are going to be high in a few months.?? Perhaps he only needs to get 15,000. Otherwise he could lose 100 to 200 birds a day. That is going to be important for a farmer, particularly if he does not have a climate controlled chicken house. A farmer will need to get that information early… It could save him a tremendous amount of money," the agricultural official remarked.

Director of the Barbados Meteorological Service, Hampden Lovell, was also of the view that the regional farming sector could benefit tremendously from the CAMI Project.

"The programme will increase and sustain agricultural productivity at the farm level through improved dissemination and application of weather and climate information, [while] incorporating an integrated and coordinated approach," he noted.

Mr. Lovell added that the success of the programme would depend on the support of agricultural extension officers, feedback from farmers, and improved forecasting from the meteorological community.

The CAMI Project is sponsored by the European Union in partnership with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute and national meteorological and hydro-meteorological services in the region.

The three-year initiative will end in February 2013, but an ongoing aspect of the programme will be the organisation of fora to sensitise the farming community about the availability of meteorological data with respect to weather and climate trends, climate change, and extreme rainfall such as floods, or drought, as well as climate pests and diseases.

andre.skeete@barbados.gov.bb

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