Work on a meteorological monitoring network which will provide weather data and assist in the organisation of agricultural activities is now under way in Iraq, Ministry of Agriculture officials told Mawtani in early February.
The project, which is expected to be completed by 2016, comes as part of the ministry's investment plans to enhance the state of agriculture, said Shawkat Saeb, director of agricultural meteorology at the ministry.
It "includes the construction of 100 stations, located in various provinces, equipped with advanced meteorological surveillance equipment and connected via satellites to each other and to the central control centre at the ministry's headquarters", he told Mawtani.
These surveillance stations, which are to cover vast areas of agricultural land, will provide weather data within specific areas, such as temperature, degree of humidity, atmospheric pressure, speed and direction of wind, solar radiation and the temperature of the soil, he said.
The data received from the stations will help in planning and administering agricultural activities and processes in a more efficient way and will thus have a positive impact on agricultural production, in which climate is a key factor, Saeb said.
"Meteorological benchmarks and readings can be useful, for example in determining the appropriate timings for planting, selecting the type of crops to be planted, the launch of operations for combating agricultural insects and pests, provision of agricultural services and determining dates for harvest," he added.
The ministry plans to create a website where meteorological data will be presented for all planted agricultural areas so farmers, college students, researchers, agricultural engineers and others can access it, he said.
"Construction of these meteorological stations is one of the vital projects we need in carrying out agricultural processes to ensure their success in view of the strong connection between agriculture, weather conditions and the environment," said ministry undersecretary Mahdi Dhamad al-Qaisi.
"These stations will play an important role in providing us with information enabling us to cultivate our agricultural wealth and resources in an optimum way, based on modern scientific data, and would help in keeping pace with the worldwide progress taking place in the agricultural sector," he told Mawtani.
The ministry has already installed a number of weather stations which are now in operation at some model agricultural farms, he said.
"By launching this project, we are trying to build a network of meteorological surveillance stations covering large agricultural areas which are linked via satellite to the control centre, which in turn will be responsible for receiving and analysing the weather data, and sending it in the form of reports to agricultural beneficiaries, research institutions and centres, and to the relevant ministries," al-Qaisi said.
The ministry will provide training for its technical and engineering staff in this field in order to strengthen their capabilities and skills in the installation, operation, maintenance and administration of meteorological observatories, as well as in dealing with climatic indicators and data, he said.
The meteorological surveillance stations are important because weather forecasts and indicators are an essential support system for any agricultural activity, said Fouad al-Dorky, who serves on the parliamentary committee for agriculture and water.
Without them, it would not be possible to draft successful agricultural plans and programmes that have a positive impact on raising the level of national agricultural output, he told Mawtani.
"The meteorological monitoring stations not only help in determining suitable timings for planting, fertilising, combating agricultural pests and harvesting, but also represent an early warning signal on any climatic hazards that could threaten agricultural wealth, both plants and animals, such as floods, blizzards or high rise in temperature," he said.
There is a need to introduce modern techniques and technology into all Iraq's agricultural infrastructure to ensure natural resources are optimally used and developed, in order to achieve self-sufficiency in all agricultural products, al-Dorky said.