Thursday, January 17, 2019
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Weather forecast saves Pakistani wheat farmers

In early November last year, Muhammad Islam was surprised by news from the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
The 40-year-old farmer learned that good rains were forecast for the crucial wheat growing months of November and December.
That was important information, as farmers in the northeastern districts of Pakistan's Potohar region had turned away from wheat - a favoured and high-earning crop - as unpredictable rains over the last decade led to repeated crop failures.
This year, however, they expect their income to increase as they return to wheat production, after years spent planting some of their land with less lucrative vegetables and tending poultry.
Well-timed seasonal rain forecasts from Pakistan's weather service - something new in the country - are making that possible.
"I would have been, for sure, at a loss and missed the timely wheat plantation, had I ignored the rain forecast ... on a local news TV channel," said Islam, who farms 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of land in Bhata, a village about 50 km (30 miles) from Pakistan's capital.
Winter rains that traditionally fell in mid-November came as late as the end of December in 2016, part of a trend of erratic rains that has confounded farmers who are entirely reliant on rainfall because they lack irrigation systems.
But last November the meteorological department correctly forecast rain for early November, giving Islam and farmers like him the opportunity to plough their land and be ready to sow.
Islam planted wheat on half his land in the third week of November, leaving the rest for vegetables. By Jan. 17, he says, the wheat plants had grown to a height of 70 cm, whereas in the past eight years they never grew to more than 10 cm over the same period.

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