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Farmers in Georgia’s top wine-making region get agricultural tips on phone

Thursday, May 18
About 8,000 farmers in Georgia’s top wine-making region of Kakheti will start receiving agricultural advice as free text messages on their mobile phones next month.

The SMS’s will recommend when they should apply treatments to their crops, what kind of treatment they will need and what the dose should be. The initiative is aimed at reducing the spread of crop diseases.

These SMS recommendations will be based on information obtained from 22 Austrian agrarian meteorology stations, installed on agricultural plots in all eight municipalities of Kakheti.

The innovation stems from a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project – financed by the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), and the European Union’s Comprehensive Institution Building Programme (CIB). The aim of the initial pilot project was to create a network of agro-meteorology stations that use data on air temperature, humidity and other factors to forecast when the risk of crop disease spread is high. Armed with this information, farmers can treat their plants according to weather conditions, and use less agrochemicals.

"Weather is especially important in agriculture,” said Mamuka Meskhi, Assistant FAO Representative in Georgia.

"The same weather factors affect the plant differently in its various vegetative stages. For this reason, it is necessary to know what the weather conditions are at each stage of the plants’ development and how the plants react to them.

"The information obtained from the agro-meteorology stations will allow the farmer to save time and money and receive high quality, healthy crop,” Meskhi added.

Each station has 10 sensors. Every hour, they measure:

• Air temperature

• Atmospheric precipitation

• Relative humidity

• Atmospheric pressure

• Speed of wind

• Wind direction

• Soil temperature

• Soil humidity

• Leaf wetness

• Sun radiation

The National Food Agency of Georgia’s Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the weather stations and for analysis and dissemination of the information received from them. The information will be processed by the Agency and disseminated to farmers from 57 villages in Kakheti.

"With the help of the agro-meteorology stations, we can forecast vegetable, cereal and fruit plant diseases,” said Nikoloz Meskhi, head of the National Food Agency’s Plant Protection Department.

"We will send this information to the owners of agricultural plots located within a five-kilometer radius of each weather station, and they will plan their plant treatment accordingly.”

At a series of presentations in all eight municipalities of Kakheti, farmers were informed about the benefits of the new system, which the Ministry of Agriculture intends to expand in the future. (