Effect of drought on almond in the Mediterranean basin

Effect of drought on almond in the Mediterranean basin

The Spanish Agriculture Services reported that in summer 2014 drought affected 72,829 hectares (18% of surface) in non-irrigated areas, only considering the Region of Murcia. The damage estimated by the agricultural organizations is around 123.5 million euros and more than 2 million trees have died. It is also worth noting that the droughts affecting the Iberian Peninsula are becoming more intense and longer, according to a 2013 study of the Spanish Agency CSIC, in which the evolution of water deficit in this region was analysed between 1945 and 2005.

This CSIC report reveals that in central and southern Spain duration of severe droughts in specific areas has increased from 15 months of continuous water deficit in the early years analysed, up to 60 months for the driest period in the 90s. In addition, this situation is even more severe in Morocco and Tunisia. Data reported from the Tunisian researchers indicate that during the last major drought period from 2000 to 2003 more than 20 million trees and 200,000 ha (80% of the total surface) were seriously affected. In these areas of the Mediterranean basin, water has become a scarce resource due to high consumption and the high level of overall pollution.

Additionally, the increasing vulnerability to inclement weather and to long periods of drought has been leading to depopulation of many rural areas. Therefore the implementation of appropriate measures is absolutely necessary to protect these rural farms, their trade and income, as well as that of associations, to ensure their independence through collective management. Beyond the ethical imperative of doing research on how to increase the productivity, and strengthening the adaptation of plants to drought on a global basis, in the Mediterranean countries we are facing a very real challenge easily followed on the news published in local newspapers.

In addition, climate change conditions accentuate drought since a reduction of 10% in precipitation translates in a reduction of 25% in the soil water. In almond, water availability is a major constraint in the cultivation of the species.

 

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