Prolonged drought in Italy causes paddy fields to dry up

The worst drought that Italy has faced in 70 years is to thirst for rice fields in the Po Valley and jeopardize the harvest of premium rice used for risotto.

Italy’s largest river turns into long sand because it didn’t rain, and the Lomellina plain lies between the Po and the Alps, lacking the water needed to flood the rice fields.

“Usually this field should be flooded with 2 to 5 cm of water, but now it seems to be on a sandy beach,” said rice farmer Giovanni Duggetta, walking through the dying rice fields of the town of Mortara. ..

Photo: EPA-EFE

The farmers there have been producing the famous Arborio rice for centuries. The wide range of grains in this local variety is believed to be ideal for absorbing the flavors of risotto dishes.

Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that drought stress is the most detrimental factor for rice, especially in the early stages of growth.

Heat waves that repeatedly hit Italy at a peak of 40 ° C can significantly reduce the yield of surviving rice.

“This paddy field hasn’t been irrigated for two weeks and 90% of the plants are already completely dry,” said Daghetta. “The remaining 10%, which is still slightly green, needs to be submerged within a few days.”

However, there was little hope that it would happen in Duggetta, as a drier day is expected.

Due to the lack of rainfall, the governors of some Italian regions have begun to declare a state of emergency in order to conserve water and coordinate the management of minimal resources.

The Po and Dravaltea rivers, the main sources of water in the region, are one-eighth of the average seasonal level, according to the West Cesia Irrigation Association, which regulates water distribution through maze-like waterways that meander through paddy fields. I am saying.

“The Po River was supposed to supply 160,000 liters per second, but now it has about 30,000-60,000 liters per second,” said Association President Stefano Bondesa.

As a result of water scarcity, Bondesa was forced to make some unpopular decisions and recently decided to stop irrigating poplars, fruit trees and secondary crops in order to prioritize rice.

Tensions are beginning to rise between upstream and downstream areas along river basins, and among farmers competing for the same diminishing resources as hydropower plants.

There is concern that a larger conflict could occur next if rainfall does not immediately release an empty reservoir.

Even the wealthiest cities in Italy are feeling the effects of drought.

The Mayor of Milan signed an ordinance on Saturday to unplug public decorative fountains to save water.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese Mario Delpini made a pilgrimage to pray for a “gift of rain.”

He visited three churches serving rural villages on the outskirts of the city, chanted the rosary, and used holy water to celebrate the fields in front of the church of St. Martin Oleardi Mediria.

His prayers seemed to be heard at least partially when Milan and parts of Northern Italy were temporarily relieved by several showers on Tuesday.

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