China tells farmers to replant or switch crops

Drought impacts 22,000 sq km of arable land, 350,000 livestock
calendar icon 26 August 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

As China's record heatwave starts to subside, farmers are assessing the damage caused by a prolonged drought and the government is urging them to replant or switch crops where they can, reported Reuters.

More than 70 days of extreme temperatures and low rainfall have wreaked havoc along the basin of the Yangtze, which supports more than 450 million people as well as a third of the country's crops.

Though rain is expected over the coming 10 days, farmers near the depleted Poyang Lake in central China's Jiangxi province, normally a flood outlet for the Yangtze, worry that the heat has already done too much damage.

The agriculture ministry in an emergency notice on Tuesday called on farmers to harvest and store rice and take action to strengthen grain growth in coming weeks. In areas where the drought has already inflicted heavy damage, farmers are encouraged to switch to late-autumn crops like sweet potatoes, but that is no easy task.

"We can't switch to other crops because there's no land," said Hu Baolin, a 70-year old farmer in a village on the outskirts of Nanchang, Jiangxi's provincial capital.

He said his plants, including rapeseed oil and sesame, were far less developed compared to normal years, and his pomelos were just a third of their usual size.

Nearby wells were severely depleted, and a gaggle of geese milled around a pond that had completely dried up around 10 days ago. Villagers had also been battling a brush fire nearby.

"Don't let people see it and think I brought you here on purpose. You can go anywhere you like (in this village), it's all the same."

The agriculture ministry said on Tuesday that the hot weather posed a "serious threat" to autumn grain production and urged local governments to "do everything possible" to find more water.

Drones were deployed in the worst hit province of Sichuan in China's southwest on Thursday to seed clouds and induce rain, while other regions along the Yangtze have been mobilising firefighters to spray parched crops, state broadcaster CCTV said.

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