Precision weather services have greatly enhanced the farming efficiency in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, known as the country’s “grain barn”, amid a loss of rural laborers.

Weather services enhanced the farming efficiencyPowerful Typhoon Lekima brought days of torrential rain to the northeast region last week after making landfall in East China over the weekend.

Through the “Heilongjiang Meteorological APP”, WeChat, SMS and other communication channels, Heilongjiang meteorological authorities updated the weather forecast in a timely manner to 95 percent of rural cooperatives in the province for disaster prevention and mitigation.

In the city of Fujin, cooperative director Liu Chun made timely drainage measures to prevent roughly 666 hectares of rice fields from being inundated.

With vast tracts of fertile farmland, Heilongjiang is the country’s largest production base of rice and beans. The province achieved grain output of 75 billion kilograms in 2018, accounting for over 10 percent of the country’s total, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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However, the agricultural province saw a population decrease in 2018, and the proportion of people aged over 65 accounted for 12.9 percent of the population.

Big agricultural conglomerates and cooperatives have pursued smart farming to tackle the rural labor shortage while realizing agricultural modernization.

Hundreds of micro-meteorological observatories have been set up in fields in Heilongjiang, making it possible to provide precision weather services to further improve farming efficiency.

“Data on rice growth, temperature and precipitation can be monitored at any time in fields,” said Liu Junli, a grain farmer in Fujin, who oversees 666 hectares of paddy fields.

He said weather changes could lead to the spread of plant diseases and insect pests. Data sent by the micro-meteorological stations give early warnings for him to take precautionary measures in his fields.

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“A total of 1,003 meteorological observation stations were set up in fields for agricultural weather services in the province,” said Gao Yuzhong, deputy director of the Heilongjiang Meteorological Bureau.

“After spraying pesticide, I don’t expect it to rain. The weather report from the micro-meteorological station in my field can be so precise as to predict within a matter of hours when it will rain,” said Wang Kerong, a grain grower in Qing’an county, who has been planting for more than 30 years.

Gao said the precision weather services also help farmers to decide what is the best time for spring plowing and autumn harvesting.

Yao Hongliang, director of the Xinhe Organic Rice Cooperative in Yanshou county, Heilongjiang, said he labeled some key data of the precision weather services on the cooperative’s agricultural products last year, as they can speak to the good quality of farm produce.

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The cooperative sets up a big screen to display 16 weather monitoring indexes including air temperature, humidity, soil moisture, temperature, light intensity, wind direction, wind speed and rainfall.

Yao said the weather service helped the cooperative gain an advantage in bargaining power last year, adding 2 yuan ($0.28) per kg of rice.

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