This is a disaster! You can see the fields but we see the desert, say Italian farmers

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/From our special correspondents/

“Yesterday it rained and eventually at least some water got into the irrigation system. The canals are at around 30%, which may be enough for a few days. But last month we were almost completely without water”, Alberto Lasagna of the Italian Farmers’ Association, in the green area where the selected varieties grow pointing out. There is about 80 square kilometers of cultivated rice in the area, and a third of that is already gone.

Similar to other places in Italy we visited on our reporting trip along the Po River, the temperature started much earlier than usual here too, according to locals. Here, around Mortara, the only summer heat started in early May.

“The high mountain massif – even Monte Rosa – is snowless for the first time this year. The alpine lakes are in poor condition since winter and there is almost no rain,” complains Lasagna, the head of the association in the Pavia region.

Then he points his hand towards the vast fields: “Now we’ll show you what it looks like dry, follow us.”

About two kilometers from the dirt road, we arrive at a field where the rice appears to be lower than the first stop. Albert’s car, with two natives in it, slows down and drives towards the soft ground full of green shoots.

“Like War”

“You may see a field, but this is a desert,” he says as soon as he gets outside. He plucks a pinch of ricegrass from the dry soil. “The shoots are green in the morning, but usually turn yellow in the afternoon. In any case, there will be no harvest from this field at all. This rice cannot be saved, there is no point in wasting water. It’s like war. We are sacrificing one field to save the others,” adds Alberto. shaking

Another journey follows through fields and dilapidated farm buildings, during which we have to stop because we can’t see anything from the dust mixed by the car in front of us.

About ten minutes later, Lasagna appears next to an empty irrigation canal, pointing to old buildings in the distance. “17. There is a historical farm dating back to the 19th century. We’ve been eating rice here for a long time, but now we won’t be able to get it from here. Now all the fields around us are dead. “Look and take pictures, it’s a real disaster,” he said.

According to him, the distribution of groundwater essentially determines which areas retain moisture or not. “We’ve been holding water here for centuries, and a huge lake has formed underground,” Alberto said, raising his hands.

Where a field has access to groundwater, good rice grows, he says. But there is a problem elsewhere.

Photograph: Michal Turek, Seznam Zpravy

A local farmer misses the water. “Last year there was water in these places, now you won’t find anything here.”

According to Lasagna, the irrigation canals that bring water to other fields are “historic,” like the farm in question on the horizon. Therefore, they are not very effective. But: “Previously it was more than enough, but the system here could take in the amount of water flowing from the mountains and the Po river. And now it’s almost gone.”

He looks up at the azure sky: “The rain has helped us now, but overall its contribution to the water supply is small. Under normal circumstances, it’s only around five percent”.

The farmer believes we will keep the rice here

Before heading to the next stop, Alberto continues to answer the question of how the locals want to resolve this dire situation. In addition to climate change, one of the causes of this year’s drought is the improper management of water, which farmers continue to do.

“We are aware of this and we know that we need to install a new and more efficient irrigation system. The climate has changed and we will adapt to it,” he replies, without mentioning anything more specific. For example, when he started building the system.

He even nods in response to the comment that, according to experts, the composition of the crops must also be adapted to the prevailing conditions. By the way, they say that rice is one of the most water-dense. “Yes. But we can only plant completely different crops on a small portion of the fields. Fortunately, we can get other drought-tolerant rice varieties. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

From our correspondents in Italy:

List of reports on the effects of climate change in Europe and the world. Reporter Lukáš Marek embarked on a journey across the Po River in northern Italy, which has experienced a historic drought this year. In the attached report, you can travel with him to the sources of the Po:

“Our resources are in pain and suffering. Beneath the Alps, where rivers flow into the plains, there are tens of kilometers of completely dry riverbeds. Global climate change and water management are to blame,” says Stefano Fenoglio for Seznam Správy.

Alberto is said to believe that quality rice will continue to be grown in the region. And this is despite knowing very well that this year’s drought is not something that will go away in a year.

According to hydrologist Stefano Fenoglio of the University of Turin, northern Italy’s water system shifts from an Alpine water system, largely supplied by snow-melting even in summer, to the Mediterranean system, where rain is the primary source. this.

“I think the water will be worse next year. Last year, at least some snow stayed on the mountains during the summer and then melted very early on. But now it’s not there and we don’t know how much snow will fall in winter,” he says, at least in the future of rice cultivation in his area. with an expression that reveals that he is not entirely sure.

The next stop is a small village where other locals are waiting for us. Young Julia, who came to talk about how the shops were, came to see Stefano, an interesting experienced farmer, and a few other Italians who had a field nearby, or journalists dealing with their problems, most likely from the Czech Republic.

Photograph: Michal Turek, Seznam Zpravy

Farmer Stefano Conti is currently showing how long rice should be.

There will be no seeds left to plant in the whole field.

A little further away from the village, Julia shows us another dry rice field, which she says is particularly sought after in Japanese restaurants in Italy and elsewhere. “Last year we were able to sell it for an excellent price. The market has gone completely crazy and frankly I have no idea what’s driving the prices up. Believe it or not, the rice business is totally crazy sometimes,” says a laughing Italian woman.

But when it comes to the upcoming harvest, he laughs. “Things are very bad in this field this year. Not only will we do nothing, but we will also have to buy more seeds because we won’t be able to get any from here,” he points to the dry field.

Photograph: Michal Turek, Seznam Zpravy

Farmer Cristiano Cartuan shows what a slightly healthier rice field looks like.

Beyond the dusty road, young farmer Cristiano poses for the camera in the middle of the rice and explains that the rice is not for sushi or risotto, but especially for sweet dishes. “My rice isn’t that bad, at least there will be some harvest,” she says.

When the discussion turns to the upcoming elections and the question of how politicians are coping with the drought, everyone waves, nods, or laughs sarcastically.

Stefano complains the loudest. When he calms down to light a cigarette, others translate: “He gets angry because he finds it absurd that a journalist from the Czech Republic is more concerned with the drought in Italy than our politicians.”

Source: Seznam Zpravy

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