Lower temperatures good for some, bad for others

PETALING JAYA: Some agricultural produce will be negatively affected by low temperatures, while others may thrive, say farmers.

Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Associations of Malaysia president Tan Chee Hee, who runs poultry farms, said farmers are wary of sudden changes in temperature.

He said that while bigger farms have the ability to manage significant temperature drops, smaller ones would be affected if they do not take the necessary steps.

“With a proper management system, such as a closed (poultry) house system, the effect of erratic weather is minimised for the poultry production.

“I believe there are some farms in Malaysia being affected, but it will not affect the supply and is insignificant to the total production.

“The ideal temperature for adult chickens is 26-28°C.

“Cooler weather is good for adult chickens, but prolonged heavy rain will cause some interruption to the growth rate. There will be slower growth,” said Tan.

For farmers growing crops, lower temperatures affect different crops differently.

In Melaka, farmer Yogeswaran Letchmanan said that cool, cloudy weather was the perfect time and one farmers like him cherish.

“The early months of the year are usually when we begin the hardest tasks of setting up our farm equipment and sowing the seeds for the year, so cloudy weather makes it much easier for us to go out into the fields without tiring ourselves out,” he said.

Yogeswaran also said that the frequent short bursts of rain also help to irrigate his crops, which includes eggplants, cucumbers, chili, and other vegetables.

“So long as there isn’t a constant heavy downpour like what happened late last year, the weather is currently suitable for my crops to grow,” he said.

He added that he keeps himself constantly informed with data from the Agriculture Department and weather reports when planning his growing season.

In Pahang, Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association secretary Chay Ee Mong said the drastic temperature drops have severely diminished vegetable harvests over the past month.

“Just recently around Chinese New Year, temperatures dropped from the usual 22°C during the day to 18°C, and dropped even further to almost 14°C at night, while humidity has hovered around 90% for the past few weeks.

“This has caused our production output to drop by around 60% to 70% as the extremely humid weather makes it easier for diseases to spread while slowing plant growth too,” said Chay.

Malaysia Food Sovereignty Forum head coordinator Nurfitri Amir Muhammad said farmers should consider diversifying their crops by sharing their farm-saved seeds to counter the spread of crop diseases during cold periods.

“Research shows that mixing various crop varieties together can significantly reduce disease epidemics in the field as different crops may be immune to different diseases.

“Thus, by mixing them together in the field, it reduces the likelihood that a single disease can wipe out an entire crop field as it may not spread as easily from plant to plant.”

He added that there should be a government initiative to encourage seed sharing between farms to ensure national food security.

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