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Drought threatens Spain’s ‘green gold’ harvest

Olive trees cover many hillsides in southern Spain but a severe drought threatens to shrivel this year's harvest
Olive trees cover many hillsides in southern Spain but a severe drought threatens to shrivel this year’s harvest.

In the scorching heat, Felipe Elvira inspects the branches of his olive trees, planted so far as the eye can easily see on a dusty hillside in southern Spain.

“You can find no olives on these. Everything is dry,” the 68-year-old said.

He and his son own a 100-hectare (250-acre) olive farm in the southern province of Jaen in sun-drenched Andalusia, an area which produces the majority of the country’s .

But a gripping a lot of Spain threatens to shrivel their harvest this season.

“We have been used to too little , however, not up to now,” said Elvira.

The spot used to obtain 800 litres (210 gallons) of rainfall per square metre, but is defined to obtain around half that amount this season, he said.

“Each year it’s worse,” Elvira said.

Global warming is hitting Spain harder than most European nations.

The united states has suffered three intense heatwaves since May, damaging crops already grappling having an unusually dry winter.

“Olive trees have become resistant to water scarcity,” said Juan Carlos Hervas, a specialist with the COAG farmers’ union.

However when droughts become extreme, the trees “activate mechanisms to safeguard themselves. They don’t really die but no more produce anything,” he added.

Expert Juan Carlos Hervas said olive trees stop bearing fruit when droughts become extreme
Expert Juan Carlos Hervas said olive trees stop bearing fruit when droughts become extreme.

‘Absolutely dramatic’

Hervas predicts the olive harvest from unirrigated land comes into play at significantly less than 20 percent of the common of the final five years.

The harvest from irrigated land will undoubtedly be just 50 to 60 percent of the average, he said.

But water reserves are dwindling.

The Guadalquivir river, which gives Andalusia with a big section of its water, is in “a truly dramatic situation” because of the insufficient rain, said Rosario Jimenez, a hydrology professor at the University of Jaen.

Reservoirs fed by the river are in just 30 percent of these capacity, in accordance with Spain’s ecological transition ministry.

“Some are even at 10 percent capacitythat is practically dry out,” said Jimenez.

Farmers also have noticed changes lately.

“Not merely does it rain less, however when it falls, it can so torrentially. The water flows without penetrating the planet earth,” said Hervas.

Parts of Portugal and Spain are the driest they have been in a thousand years
Elements of Portugal and Spain will be the driest they are in one thousand years.

Elements of Portugal and Spain will be the driest they are in one thousand years because of an atmospheric high-pressure system driven by , in accordance with a report published this month in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The phenomenon is defined to improve, jeopardising crops like olives and grapes.

On the line is really a key export: Spain supplies nearly 1 / 2 of the world’s essential olive oil. Its exports of the “green gold” are worth some 3.6 billion euros ($3.7 billion) each year.

Olive dependence

Essential olive oil has been an important area of the Mediterranean diet for a large number of years and olive trees cover many hillsides in southern Spain, which are generally unsuitable for other crops.

“Many villages here depend entirely on . Without olives, there is absolutely no more revenue,” said Hervas.

Seven out of 10 hectares of olive farmland in Spain aren’t irrigated, based on the COAG farmers’ union.

With the rise in temperatures, 80 percent of Andalusia’s unirrigated olive tree plantations may no more be suitable to cultivate olives, or at the very least some types of the crop, it added.

The product quality may possibly also decline because farmers will need to select the fruit early, before it really is fully mature, the union said in a recently available report.

Spanish olive farmer Felipe Elvira is struggling with a lack of rain
Spanish olive farmer Felipe Elvira is fighting too little rain.

Some farmers could be tempted to start out irrigating their plots, but this might deplete stretched reservoirs even more.

Agriculture already consumes around four-fifths of Spain’s , said Jimenez.

“Not absolutely all land could be irrigated,” she said.

Back at his farm, Elvira is all too alert to the issue.

“We can not exhaust resources, everyone requires water. Honestly, I have no idea how we are likely to manage,” he said.



2022 AFP

Citation: Drought threatens Spain’s ‘green gold’ harvest (2022, July 27) retrieved 27 July 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-drought-threatens-spain-green-gold.html

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