Sixteen automatic weather stations have been set up by the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) across the State. Six more stations will be established in the coming months by VFPCK, with a view to augmenting the horticulture development mission undertaken by it.

The stations have been set up in all districts except Alappuzha and Palakkad, a top official of VFPCK told The Hindu. They are intended to provide data on climate which will indicate the changes in weather patterns that could affect yield. The information could also be used as a precautionary mechanism against vagaries of nature in order to minimise damage to crops.

The automatic stations, imported after floating tenders, provide data on temperature, rainfall, wind velocity, wind direction, relative humidity, soil temperature and moisture. Each weather station has equipment such as rain gauge, relative humidity sensor, solar radioactive sensor, wind speed and direction sensor, datalogger and modem.

The readings, obtained at intervals of half an hour, are transmitted to the main computer server at the VFPCK headquarters in Kochi. Each station costs around Rs.4.5 lakh.

The first batch of four stations became operational in December last. All the monitoring stations are functioning now, with the latest batch starting operation a fortnight ago, the official said. The process of analysing the readings is being taken up in association with scientists and researchers of farm varsities. It will take some time before arriving at conclusions which could be passed on to farmers and self-help groups engaged in production of fruits and vegetables.

The weather stations are located at places away from the Indian Meteorological Department observation sites, the official said. Each station is established in a 16 square metre area. Some of the stations are located in VFPCK owned land. The locations were selected by a committee under government guidance, the official said. Drought, flood and wind often hit farmers hard and the losses have been increasing each year. In a memorandum submitted to the Central team which visited Kerala to assess drought, the State had sought Rs.5,000 crore as compensation for crop loss.

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