As misfortune never happens alone, the coronavirus pandemic is accompanied by a historic spring drought in Geneva. This raises fears for the next grain harvest, as it is a crucial time for crops.
This Friday, the township broke its record for the number of days without precipitation in the spring, since the start of the measurements in 1864. The last time it rained was March 12, which means that we now have spent thirty-six days without a single drop of rain. The previous record, dating back to the spring of 1893, was 35 days. All seasons combined, we are going through even the third longest dry period in contemporary Geneva history, and we are not far from the absolute record, which was forty-one days in the winter of 1896.
The soil lacks water
However, MétéoSuisse does not expect significant precipitation in the coming days, apart from a few drops overnight from Saturday to Sunday. For rains worthy of the name, it will probably have to wait until the end of the month. “The summer temperatures of recent times, as well as the weatherstripping, have also helped to dry up the atmosphere,” notes Christophe Salamin, forecaster at MeteoSwiss.
And since the plants have restarted their growth cycle, they are pumping more and more water into the soil, which only exacerbates its dryness. The soil water deficit (what it lacks so that it is saturated with water) is thus twice higher than the average of the last thirty years for a month of April (see graph above). “50 liters of water per square meter are missing so that the soil is saturated,” said Christophe Salamin.
This is a drought that affects only the surface layers of the soil. Thanks to the heavy rains at the end of the year, the water tables are doing relatively well. However, the vegetation’s water needs are far from being met. Cereal crops are the most worrying, with early spring being a critical phase for plant development.
The shoots turn yellow
“In the wheat fields there are sprouts that have started to turn yellow at the base,” said John Schmalz, director of the Farmers’ Circle. In addition, plants are about 25% less developed than they should be, which can affect future crop yields. If it doesn’t rain in the next two weeks, we will start counting the losses. “
Farmers have therefore decided to postpone certain work. At Martial and Thomas Läser’s in Presinge, spring crops have not yet been put in place. “We didn’t sow anything, because if the seeds germinate and it dries up right after, everything is ruined,” says Martial. At the same time last year, we had already sown everything, the lentils and our other crops. ” And no question for them to water the fields: “With the price of network water, it would not be profitable financially.”
Others still planted, betting on wetter weather in the near future. This is the case of Maxime Dethurens, in Laconnex. “We have already sown part of our crops, like sunflowers, hoping it will rain soon. But the ground is so hard that it damages our machines. ” To sow the corn, however, he will wait for the return of the rain.
In vegetable crops, which are mainly grown under glass this season, drought is not a problem at the moment. The vine doesn’t suffer too much either, the vines digging their roots deep enough to find the little water they need at this point.
Created: 18.04.2020, 08h55