`Worsening Drought Conditions Predicted in Southern and Central Europe - Olive Oil Times

Worsening Drought Conditions Predicted in Southern and Central Europe

May. 20, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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The extra­or­di­nary drought crip­pling north­ern Italian agri­cul­ture has been expand­ing east.

The vital­ity of plants is being ham­pered as a result of dry con­di­tions which now cross Europe, from the south­ern Alps to Ukraine, accord­ing to the last update of the Global Drought Observatory ana­lyt­i­cal report pub­lished by the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission.

In the last 30 years, I do not remem­ber any­thing not even slightly sim­i­lar to the cur­rent emer­gency. There are no solu­tions, and nobody is to be blamed for this. The only way out? Let’s hope it rains.- Umberto Brocca, pres­i­dent, Cremona province Irrigation Consortia

The pre­cip­i­ta­tion deficit, which has wors­ened in recent months in the Po and Danube river basins, has dra­mat­i­cally impacted reser­voir capac­ity and hydropower gen­er­a­tion.

Lower water avail­abil­ity in south­ern Europe makes com­pe­ti­tion for water uses harder and ear­lier,” the report’s authors wrote. Winter crops in Spain and Italy are in sub-opti­mal con­di­tions, and water stress has already reduced the yield poten­tial.”

See Also:Record Heatwave and Drought in Pakistan Threaten Crops and Olive Farming

According to JRC experts, drier-than-nor­mal soil mois­ture con­di­tions were observed in March in most of north­ern Italy, Hungary, east­ern Romania and south­ern Ukraine.

The reduc­tion of soil water con­tent, they warned, is a direct con­se­quence of the drought and affects the abil­ity of the plants to extract water from the soil. As a result, the effect on agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties and yields is imme­di­ate.

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The report empha­sized that, in April, pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the south­ern Alps only slightly reduced the impact of the snow­pack deficit in the moun­tains, which is a cru­cial con­trib­u­tor to river dis­charges in late spring.

That deficit in April was 61-per­cent worse than the aver­age con­di­tion of the Italian Alps between 2009 and 2021. Experts believe such a con­di­tion strength­ens the pos­si­bil­ity of an incom­ing hydro­log­i­cal drought for the fol­low­ing months.

Since the begin­ning of the year in the region, over­all rain­fall was down 70 to 80 per­cent com­pared with the aver­age of the period. As a result, the Po River is run­ning so low that above-aver­age sea­wa­ter intru­sion is occur­ring in the basin.

In the last 30 years, I do not remem­ber any­thing not even slightly sim­i­lar to the cur­rent emer­gency,” Umberto Brocca, pres­i­dent of the Irrigation Consortia in the Cremona province, whose water avail­abil­ity greatly depends on the Po River, told local media.

There are no solu­tions, and nobody is to be blamed for this,” he added. The only way out? Let’s hope it rains.”

In Lombardy, one of the most rel­e­vant Italian regions for sta­ple crop pro­duc­tion, water reserves have dropped by 50 per­cent so that all crops are now con­sid­ered at risk.

According to the local branch of Coldiretti, a farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, water scarcity could cause more than €500 mil­lion in dam­age to local farm­ers, with even more losses caused to the other actors involved in the food pro­duc­tion chain.

The JRC cli­mate experts also noted how through­out Italy, most regions have received con­sid­er­ably less water than aver­age, and rain is needed to avoid fur­ther reduc­tion of the yield poten­tial of win­ter crops and to cre­ate favor­able con­di­tions for effi­cient fer­til­iz­ers appli­ca­tions and sum­mer crop sow­ings.”

The extent of the drought and the depth of the emer­gency both in Italy and south­ern Europe will be closely mon­i­tored. The European Observatory has also warned that given the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, it is highly prob­a­ble that the excep­tion­ally dry con­di­tions will extend for at least one to two months.

Even with their spe­cific resilience to drought, severe drought can affect olive trees, which can reduce yields and even cause dam­age if asso­ci­ated with pro­longed heat­waves.

The report maps show how, as sum­mer begins, sev­eral European areas ded­i­cated to olive farm­ing, such as the French region of Provence and Sicily and Lazio in Italy, are expe­ri­enc­ing wor­ry­ingly low soil mois­ture lev­els, which is already affect­ing local veg­e­ta­tion.

These neg­a­tive fore­casts raise con­cerns for the evo­lu­tion of the cur­rent drought,” the report’s authors con­cluded. Monitoring its evo­lu­tion in the next months is essen­tial for risk and impact assess­ment and early warn­ing.”



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