Dry Season Advisory from RADA

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The forecast for the upcoming three-month period, January -March 2022, as reported by the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, indicates that rainfall is likely to be below-normal to near-normal, while temperatures are expected to be near-normal to above-normal.

December 2021 marked the beginning of the dry season and as such a reduction in rainfall amounts can be expected. In general, according to the Met Service of Jamaica, the island should experience seasonally tolerable temperatures during this period. It is expected that there will be more consecutive days with little to no rainfall and hence we are likely to experience a continual reduction in water levels in various catchment areas across the island (Ja. Seasonal Climate Outlook Dec. 2021-Feb 2022).

Though the Caribbean Drought Bulletin from the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) coordinated by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) indicates no drought concern for Jamaica for both short term (end of March 2022) and long term (end of May 2022), Jamaica will likely experience at least 3, 7-day dry spells in the first quarter with a 50-60% probability with a smaller (20-30%) probability for at least one 15-day dry spell for the same period.

This information requires us to be alert to further updates especially from our local Met Service and prepare ourselves for the eventuality of water stress on our production/rearing systems. As such the following information from RADA can assist:

o   as much as possible - use irrigation systems efficiently and economically and as resources permit e.g. gravity drip systems, small portable pumps, tanks for water storage (black tanks)

  • install temporary guttering systems to catch water from sporadic rainfall
  • practice soil mulching with the aid of plastic or grass liners to retain soil moisture

o   plant seeds in trays instead of direct seeding in order to use available water more efficiently

o   improve crop portfolio mix by planting drought-tolerant crops e.g. cassava, pineapple, sweet potato, gungo peas, ginger

o   harvest from mature crops on time to reduce water and heat stress on plants

o   for water retention- establish land husbandry treatments such treatments as:

  • Contour ditches, 
  • Planting of crops along the contour
  • Planting of trees and crops using individual basins
  • Planting cover crops and
  • Minimal soil tillage
  • add organic matter to the soil, this will increase its water holding-capacity as a long term measure towards drought resilience.
  • establish wind-breaks around fields helps to reduce loss of water from the soil
  • establish firebreaks[1] (where the risk of bush fires is high) as this will help in reducing the spread of fires.

Consider maximizing production and profitability by selecting the best lands, using the most productive varieties, applying good fertility and pest management practices (Gahn M., 2019). Crop selection has a lot to do with drought management capabilities. If the water source is unreliable – naturally we should avoid establishing long-term perennial crops. Let your water source, quantity, and quality dictate what you plant (Stein L., 2011).