Drought “will have an impact” on cereal harvests in France

The lack of rain, if it continues, will also affect spring crops, such as sunflowers, beets and corn, warns the Ministry of Agriculture.

Wheat, in full growth, lack of water and the heat promises to last: the drought which hits the whole of France will haveimpact on grain production“, warned Monday, May 9 the Ministry of Agriculture. “Winter crops, such as wheat or barley, which are currently in the development phase, are beginning to experience situations that will affect yields“, we said after meetings of the Ministries of Agriculture and Ecological Transition with water agencies and professionals from the agricultural world. “There will be an impact on cereal production“, it was estimated at Agriculture, even if it “is still much too early to have an accurate assessment“.

In the morning, the FNSEA, the majority agricultural union, drew up an alarmist observation: “No region is spared. Every day that passes, we see soils cracking. Yesterday, I was with a farmer in Puy-de-Dôme, he is watering his wheat. If it continues like this, those who have the possibility to irrigate will get by, the others will have dramatic yield reductions.“, told AFP its president, Christiane Lambert.

Since October-November, there are huge droughts in Portugal and Spain, which go up in Occitania and Provence and along the Rhone Valley. What is unusual in this season is that the drought affects the north of the Loire“, she explained. Météo-France evokesa heat episode» which, without being new, is «remarkable for its earliness, durability and geographical extent“.

Delicate period»

It is a delicate period for cereals: the wheat has reached its adult size, the ear has developed and we are now at the stage of grain enlargement“, explained Joël Limouzin, in charge of emergency situations at the FNSEA. However, without water, the fertilizer that the plant needs to produce a quality grain will not be able to go up the stem, “it will stay in the ground“. And the grains will wither, with the risk “a loss of yield that can go up to 40% if the weather remains dry for several weeks“Warns Mr. Limouzin, who is particularly worried about the great cereal plains of Beauce and Burgundy.

The lack of rain, if it continues, will also affect spring crops, such as sunflowers, beets and corn, underlines the ministry, which also mentions the delicate situation of fodder while the shoots of grass, which were up now rather better than usual, slow down. Between September and April 2022, the rainfall deficit is estimated at 19%, and the groundwater recharge deficit is 20%, mainly in the Grand-Est, in the north of New Aquitaine and the whole of Sud- Is, it was reported to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

At the end of the afternoon meetings, the ministries announced that the window opened in April to help farmers cope with climate change and initially endowed with 20 million euros, was going to be topped up “an additional 20 million“. Faced with the risk of drought this summer, the government had also announced at the end of April that the water agencies could spend an additional 100 million euros to help the agricultural sectors adapt or create water reservoirs – a measure contested by ecological associations and certain peasant unions.

Restrictions in 15 departments

Currently, 15 departments are already subject to restrictions ranging from encouraging water savings (vigilance stage) to prohibiting the watering of gardens or fields at certain times (alert), which can go as far as a 50% reduction in water withdrawals for agricultural purposes or a total ban on water withdrawals for washing cars or watering green spaces (reinforced alert).

These measures are taken as the situation evolves at the departmental level by the prefects, whose role has been reinforced to bring local consultation approaches to a successful conclusion more quickly. In France, 5% of agricultural land is irrigated, ie nearly 1.4 million hectares. The rate rises to 14% in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.


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