Harvest overview 2017: climate change has damaged harvest

This year, climate change has created a lot of trouble for farmers: late frost, drought, five heat waves and floods. "Climate change showed agriculture its grim face in 2017. The late frost at the end of April caused massive crop losses. Drought and heat waves caused damage to grasslands and the corn crops in different regions suffered too. More and more parts in the south east of the Austrian state Styria have become drought hotspots,” emphasizes Franz Titschenbacher the president of the Chamber of Agriculture. And he continues: “We are talking about the future of our domestic agriculture, especially fruit, wine, vegetables and horticultural businesses. Quick and easy access to water for irrigation, during frost and drought has top priority. And consumers should be able to rely on the supply of home-grown food, despite heat, drought and frost."

A good pumpkin harvest? Even though the acreage still significantly decreased. Photo: LK/Alexander Danner

Again massive crop losses due to frost
For the second time in a row, the late frost has hit the fruit farmers with full force. After a catastrophic year in 2016, apple growers could only harvest about half of a normal crop, which poses great economic difficulties after the challenging previous years. Furthermore, cherries, plums, strawberries, apricots, peaches, and elderberry varieties showed significantly decreased yield due to the frost. However, the winegrowers are in high spirits as their harvest is the second largest in Styria, especially after the miniscule harvest, again due to frost, of the previous year. Harvesting did start three weeks earlier due to the heat waves. Two other highlights in this year’s harvest are the regional pumpkin oil and the runner beans. The frost and heat created a great challenge for the vegetable growers. And the hailstorms in June, July and August caused a loss of 17 million Euros (2016: 20 million Euros). 

The difficult access to water, high investment costs and bureaucratic hurdles involved in starting up irrigation projects are among the biggest problems mentioned by fruit, wine, vegetable and maize seed growers and the horticulture,” quotes Franz Titschenbacher the survey conducted by the Chamber of Agriculture. Over 62% of the interviewed state that they have to start irrigation in the coming years in order to secure production. Mainly, water reservoirs are considered for frost protection irrigation and irrigation (70%). The respondents aim to irrigate about 900 hectares of fruit (total area: 7,642 hectares), 300 hectares of vegetables (1,661 hectares) and 600 hectares of special crops such as pumpkins and maize seed. Titschenbacher continues: “In order to save the harvests from frost and drought and honor supply contracts, Austrian farmers, in particular fruit farmers and those who grow vegetables, runner beans, horseradish and maize, need simpler, more uncomplicated and priority access to water."

President Titschenbacher: Water is the future of agriculture. Photo: LK/Alexander Danner

Strategies against climate change
"With the findings on frost protection of the past two years, our advisory service supports the farmers. This includes medium- and long-term control strategies, such as the availability of water for frost irrigation as well as the use of wind machines and smoke,” emphasizes Chamber Director Werner Brugner. Together with the responsible parties in Styria and several research facilities, the Chamber of Agriculture is working on the "Masterplan for Agricultural Climate Risk Management" which is commissioned by Styria. 

Source: stmk.lko

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