According to a recent publication in Nature, scientists analyzing the weather patterns along the Equator in the Pacific, referred to as “El Niño Southern Oscillation”, will allow scientists to predict future cocoa harvests.
The scientists studied data in snapshots overtime on the yields from farms in Sulawesi, Indonesia using crops that had fertilizer applied and those that had not. They then fed this data set into a machine learning algorithm which was able to associate 75% of cocoa yield variation with ENSO patterns, 8 or 24 months in advance of harvest. They could then extrapolate this into a prediction for the best times to apply fertilizer.
This will help small-scale producers and the chocolate industry as a whole since they will now be able to loosely estimate revenue. This will allow for more informed investment decisions, improve tropical crop research, and reduce the uncertainty of a year’s general weather patterns. This analysis will likely benefit many other people within the agriculture sector including the coffee growers.
Any crop that shares a relationship with ENSO will be able to use this data to estimate rainfall which will then in turn allow farmers to estimate how much fertilizer they should use, irrigation strategies, and will allow for the modification of farming methods from year to year. Although scientists and farmers occupy different fields (no pun intended), this data will assist both in their pursuits.
What scientists want is to know why something happens…Farmers want to know what works. –
Ross Chapman, the lead author of the paper