Water restrictions are in place throughout France as drought threatens agricultural production

Water restrictions are in place throughout France as drought threatens agricultural production

Drought and a succession of three heat waves since June – attributed by scientific consensus to climate change – have severely reduced river flows through France, multiplying water restriction measures, directly affecting agricultural production.

Across all fields of France, crops suffer from heat and drought, with water restrictions worrying the farming community, especially corn production, which has already been hit hard by record temperatures.

With just 9.7 millimeters of rain in July, according to the meteorological service Météo France, rainfall in the last four weeks has decreased by 84% compared to the July average of the last three decades.

The French drought hindered agriculture and imposed widespread restrictions on the use of fresh water.

The cumulative effects of drought and lack of water occur during corn pollination, a crucial period for crop development.

According to Xavier de Castelbajac, head of grain marketing at the Maïsadour cooperative group, corn is usually sown between April and May.

When the plants start growing, the pollination period begins in early July.

“The flower will fertilize the plant and thanks to this fertilization an ear of corn will be formed”, before being harvested in early October, explains De Castelbajac.

Yields are falling sharply

The group, which has 60% of its plots irrigated, has noticed a clear difference compared to those that are not: the drop in yield is estimated between 10 and 20% for some plots, compared to a decrease of 50. %, or even more, without irrigation.

Maïsadour owns around 70,000 hectares of cereals in France.

According to FranceAgriMer’s latest CéréObs barometer published on 29 July, on a national scale, the percentage of grain maize plots considered to be in “good to excellent” condition dropped from 75% to 68% within a week. .

According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, the annual volume of water consumed nationwide is estimated at 5.3 billion cubic meters per year; agriculture is the main water consumption activity equal to 45% of the total water supply, ahead of the cooling of the plants at 31%, drinking water at 21% and only 3% for industrial use.

However, when faced with dry soil, irrigation is the only way to ensure the corn yield levels that industries rely on, particularly for animal feed.

Paris region on drought alert

Meanwhile, the prefecture of the Ile-de-France department has alerted Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne “drought”, with all departments of metropolitan France now affected by the climate phenomenon among the requests for water saving measures.

On 25 July, the flow of the Seine fell below the 81 m3 / s threshold at the Paris-Austerlitz train station, triggering a shift to drought vigilance.

In the greater Paris region, individuals, local authorities and companies have been encouraged by the prefecture – but not obliged – to ration consumption, avoiding irrigation of green spaces or roads, washing vehicles and limiting domestic consumption.

All 96 departments in France are now involved in a national “drought plan”.

46 departments are at the red “crisis” level, with only the priority use of water authorized, such as drinking water, sanitation, health and safety.

In the 38 departments at the orange “reinforced alert” level, pumping for agriculture is reduced to at least 50% and there are restrictions on irrigation of gardens and golf courses.

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