Francia: Potato growers worried about water restrictions
A drought is currently prevailing in France. The water deficit is such that the prefecture of the Nord placed the department on drought alert as early as April.
Restriction measures are applicable until June 30th to reduce water consumption. Private households, industries and farmers are concerned. The latter are prohibited from irrigating their crops between 11am and 5pm.
It is the first time that such a decree has been enforced so early in the season. “The water deficit level is out of the ordinary. At the end of winter, the water flows and tables should be at their highest, and that is not currently the case,” explains Eric Fisse, departmental director of territories and sea.
Among the producers, the distress is palpable. “The major needs for water will start in May and we will only be allowed to water 75% of the time,” says Alain Dequeker, farmer in the region. The potato “feeds on water at about 12 to 18 inches deep. The needs for water in farming represent only 4% of the withdrawals, so this decree is a burden for our economic activity and will have little effect on water saving.”
He adds that the consequences of a water shortage for his vegetables are qualitative, quantitative and environmental. At the beginning of the cycle, “we bring what the soil needs to produce a certain quantity. If this quantity is not reached, it means that we have put too much fertilizer and too many phytosanitary products, and therefore, that we end up having a negative impact on the environment.” Besides, “an excessive drought affects the quality of the tubers, which become smaller, misshapen, glassy and the yield is lower.”
It is “the most irrigated crop in the region, followed by green beans, onions and small vegetables like carrots,” explains Jacques Blarel, head of the crop production service of the Chamber of Agriculture of the Pas-de-Calais. “It seems disproportionate to force farmers to undertake a 25% reduction of the irrigation time for an impact on the resource which is minimal.” In addition, the decree could be applied again this summer, “because, even if it rained later, the refilling of the water table would be difficult, part of the water being consumed directly by the crops before arriving at the tables.”
Source : lavoixdunord.fr