Climate change is one of the challenges that the agricultural sector will inevitably face in the Region of Murcia, where extreme weather events like flooding rains or hail storms are recorded with increasing frequency, causing significant losses in fruit and vegetable productions.
"The rain and temperature cycles are undergoing serious changes," says Manuel Martínez Rico, PhD in Agro-food Resources and Technologies from the Miguel Hernández University. "It is hard for us to imagine the orchard of Europe without production, but it is one of the scenarios that we must consider if we do not manage to reduce CO2 emissions and reverse the escalation of its levels in the atmosphere," he said.
José María Egea, who is a professor of Botany at the University of Murcia (UMU), agrees and says that "the impact of climate change on crops in the Region of Murcia will be extremely negative." The expert warns that every foreseeable scenario "points to rising temperatures, lower rainfall and, consequently, more desertification and salinization." In this context, Egea says that "those working in irrigated agriculture will have to pay very high prices for water, while rainfed crops won't survive due to a lack of water."
The head of the Plant Health Service of the Region of Murcia, Francisco José González Zapater, predicts that the rise in temperatures and the increase in torrential rains will also facilitate the spread of harmful insects and diseases. At the moment, the variations in the cold are already taking a toll on the fruit trees and "causing physiopathies or physiological disorders."
Broadly speaking, climate change will be felt in the Region "with changes in the sowing and harvesting schedules," says Egea. Although in reality, this is already being observed. Fernando Serna, who is the director of Inacex, a property buying and selling intermediary, says that "many companies in Murcia are now buying or leasing land in higher areas, such as Jumilla and Yecla," to be able to move their crops to areas with milder temperatures. In fact, it is already possible to complete crop cycles in places like Yecla, which used to be too cold for some of them, thanks to the fact that temperatures have increased by between three and four degrees Celsius.
Producers have been taking advantage of this to obtain crops all year round without leaving the Region, moving the productions from the surroundings of the Mar Menor to areas in Caravaca, with their 1,000 meter altitude. "Some of the crops in the Region may continue to be cultivated, but at different latitudes and altitudes," says Egea.