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Climate Research

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CR 33:3-17 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr033003

Climate prediction and agriculture: current status and future challenges

M. V. K. Sivakumar*

World Meteorological Organization, 7bis Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

ABSTRACT: The past 2 decades have seen significant improvements in the forecasting of climate variability, based on advances in our understanding of ocean-atmosphere interactions. Such improvements permit the development of applications that predict climate at seasonal to interannual timescales, helping decision makers in the agricultural sector to deal more effectively with the effects of climate variability. The present study describes the current status of agriculture and the need for climate forecasts in light of risk management in rainfed farming, competition for limited water resources, impacts of natural disasters and the multi-dimensional impacts of extreme variability. The short history of climate prediction science demonstrates the progress made in understanding climate variability and the reliability of the predictions in the tropical Pacific region. Several case studies of climate forecast applications are described, illustrating the wide interest in such applications to help the farm sector cope with climate variability. Despite the progress achieved, several challenges lie ahead in enhancing the wider applications of climate forecasts in the agricultural sector. These include the need for improvements in the accuracy of models; generating quantitative evidence about the usefulness of climate forecasts as tools for agricultural risk management; addressing the key issues for promoting beneficial use of forecasts; responding to diverse needs of the users and involving the stakeholders more actively in climate prediction applications; giving greater priority to extension and communication activities; learning from non-adoption situations; deriving more economic benefits through climate prediction applications to trade and storage; and improving the institutional and policy environment.

KEY WORDS: Seasonal climate forecasts · Applications of forecasts · Agriculture · User needs · CLIMAG

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