ANKARA: After years of fighting climate change – and usually losing – Turkey’s farmers are turning to modern technology for a deceptively simple solution. Under a government project that aims to promote flexible, sustainable farming, specially developed monitoring and information satellite systems now provide farmers with the data they need to continuously adapt to unpredictable weather.
Launched in 2010, but still in the pilot stage, the project gives 3,000 tablet-owning farmers access to real-time agricultural data through a free intranet provided by the government.
At their fingertips, farmers have information on factors ranging from soil quality to atmospheric temperature, and from wind speed to warning signs of oncoming natural disasters. They share the information with their local community, so everyone can decide what crop is best to plant, when to plant it, and how to get the highest yield.
Kazan is part of the central Anatolia region, which has an average yearly precipitation of only 300 millimeters (12 inches). Over much of Turkey, the scenario is no better.
“The 52 million hectares of arid and semi-arid agriculture land, which make up 65 percent of the total farmland in Turkey, are worst hit by climate change,” said Mahmut Temiz, an official at Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs. “Annual rainfall now swings wildly between 250 to 2,250 millimeters.”
To take the guesswork out of farming in a region with such unreliable rainfall, the project put 1,200 ground stations around Turkey, most of them in the Anatolia region.
Costing $30,000 each to set up, the ground stations are equipped with as many as 40,000 different sensors, of which only 15,000 are in use now, giving the systems room to grow.
The sensors pick up and transmit data that includes wind speed and direction; the amount of solar radiation available to run farmers’ solar energy installations; temperature and moisture levels in the atmosphere and soil; rainfall measurements and predictions; and irrigation and fertilizer requirements at each stage of plant growth.