HOHHOT, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- In a vineyard in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, farmers weave through rows of grapevines, collecting ripe grapes. They are happy this year.
"We are expecting a big harvest this year because we didn't suffer much from weather disasters," said Zhang Yafeng, chief engineer at the Nuomin grape planting base in Dengkou County in the city of Bayannur.
The bumper harvest owed to a package of specialized services from the local meteorological bureau including disaster warnings, weather modification, and guidance on grape planting.
Dengkou County had 1,000 hectares of vineyards and 19 local grape-planting companies in 2019. Last year, a total of 125 tonnes of grapes were produced at the Nuomin grape planting base, generating an output value of 9.98 million yuan (about 1.4 million U.S. dollars).
"Large-scale planting is vulnerable to meteorological disasters such as frost, hail and strong winds," said Zhang, who highlighted the importance of accurate weather forecasts.
The base was hit by three rounds of frost between March 15 and May 1, when grapevines are at a key sprouting stage. "The meteorological bureau gave us early warnings and told us to take precautions," said Zhang. "We thus took extra heat preservation measures between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and the grapes suffered no damage."
Early warnings are possible thanks to a station that automatically monitors the microclimate at the vineyard. Such stations have been established across Bayannur in recent years to provide more accurate and specialized weather services for farmers and agricultural companies.
The accuracy of meteorological disaster warnings in Bayannur has been improving year by year, reaching 78.35 percent in 2019. The city's meteorological bureau has also developed a digital platform to inform every village and urban community of the latest weather changes through text messages, WeChat and loudspeakers.
Fang Xiaohong, a senior engineer at the weather modification center of the city's meteorological bureau, recalled how hail took a heavy toll on farmers in the 1980s.
"One year there was a hail storm in the harvest season, which destroyed all corn and sunflowers. I felt very sorry for the farmers," she said. "Now our radar can not only detect weather changes from a long distance but can also display atmospheric conditions in layers, making predictions more accurate."
Farmers usually bury grapevines in the soil to help them survive the winter, but they used to rely only on their experience to judge how deep they should be buried. Now the meteorological bureau provides precise suggestions on the thickness of the "quilt" for grapevines every year with the help of technology.
A smart agriculture mobile application offering planting knowledge from meteorological and agricultural experts is also available, covering over 90 percent of major growers in Bayannur.