At the moment agriculture is good or not

Still too little rain in Germany : Part of the harvest is already lost

Anyone who is currently out and about in nature can see it with their own eyes: the soil is still alarmingly dry, even the rainfall of the last few days and weeks could hardly change this. Too little rain fell in Germany in the past few months.

Farmers have long been worried about their yields, the timber industry and forestry about the condition of the forests, experts already warned of the third year of drought. The "huge stress test" that Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) recently spoke of with a view to the situation in the German forests could affect many more areas and the corona crisis could last for a long time.

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Just a few weeks ago, the German Weather Service (DWD) felt "reminiscent of the drought summer 2018". A look at the rainfall in April was enough: the amount of rain was far below average. In Germany there was only 17 millimeters of precipitation on average over the whole month - 71 millimeters less than the long-term average.

Due to the dry weather and the high level of evaporation, the first decimetres of the soil were severely dried out. "This is particularly critical for freshly germinated plants and young plants whose roots depend on the water supply in the upper decimetres," the DWD informed the Tagesspiegel.

Also in May too little rainfall

But the weather experts also say: "The rainfall in winter, especially in February, replenished the soil water supplies in many regions." Only in an area from the Thuringian Basin to southern Saxony-Anhalt to Lusatia, the deeper soil layers did not exist in winter completely filled with moisture.

But even in May, rainfall has so far remained below the long-term average. Up to May 24th there was an average of 38.8 millimeters of rain - for the entire month it is otherwise 71 millimeters.

However, it is too early to make a forecast for 2020. Such an assessment can only be made by experts when the period is almost over. Another year of drought cannot be ruled out: “Should the precipitation deficit continue to build up over the next few months and the periods with dry soil fall within critical periods for the plants, then one can give an indication beforehand that it may be for agriculture there will be a similar critical year as 2018, "said the DWD most recently.

The temperatures are rising

Nine out of ten of the hottest years in Germany were within the last 20 years. The temperatures in this country have already risen by 1.6 degrees Celsius since 1881 - well above the global mean of just under one degree. For Munich Re, the figures also fit the current situation: “The previous drought in Germany and parts of Central Europe fits in with the trend of recent years,” Ernst Rauch, chief climatologist of the Munich reinsurance company, told Tagesspiegel in April.

Extreme heat waves have broken temperature records in recent years not only in Germany, but also in neighboring countries such as France. "This development, which is particularly difficult for agriculture and forestry, also fits into the longer-term picture of climate change and, according to the models of climate science, will become more acute in the longer term, especially in the summer months," Rauch added.

The drought also brings other extreme fluctuations with it: "With climate change, weather extremes such as such dry phases but also the opposite extreme - heavy precipitation - are likely to occur even more violently and more frequently in the future," says Tobias Fuchs, DWD Board Member for Climate and Environment. The danger for agriculture is that dry days in the growing season combine to form longer dry and drought phases - with negative effects on the growth and harvest of many plants.

Drastic consequences are also threatening localities: the drought, as we experienced it in 2018 and 2019, as well as the severe damage from thunderstorms and flash floods such as in Simbach in Bavaria and in Braunsbach in Baden-Württemberg in 2016 showed that one is preparing for relevant natural hazards with high damage potential must, so Rauch.

Farmers fear crop failures

East Germany in particular is suffering from the drought. The sandy or clayey soils are particularly difficult to store moisture and therefore dry out quickly. There is already irreparable damage to rapeseed in the east, warns farmers president Joachim Rukwied.

A prolonged, heavy rain could solve the problem and save corn, sugar beet, vegetables and fruit. However, this requires at least 20 to 30 liters per square meter. In many regions, however, only ten liters have fallen since mid-March. "50 liters would be normal," says Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU). You too are concerned about the drought.

The past summers were already far too dry

Agriculture is facing its third difficult summer in a row. Because not only was 2018 catastrophic, there were also heat waves with temperature records and long periods of drought in 2019, but state aid was not necessary a year ago. In 2018, however, the federal and state governments supported companies whose existence was at risk with taxpayers' money totaling 340 million euros.

At that time, the east and north of Germany were particularly affected, maize had withered in the fields and grain dried up. It hit the cattle farmers particularly badly, who could not mow fresh grass for their animals and had to start their winter supplies in summer.

Politics must help

"Another year of drought would hit many farms very hard," warned Agriculture Minister Klöckner recently in a video message. The Federal Government is taking the concerns of farmers and foresters ahead of the 2020 drought "very seriously", and the development is being observed "very closely," said the minister. There is already some help: For example, the insurance tax for drought insurance has been reduced from 19 to 0.03 percent of the sum insured.

In addition, Klöckner has enforced a profit smoothing for the tax. The taxation of agricultural and forestry income is now based on the average profit over a three-year period in order to balance out good and bad years. But that's not enough for the farmers' association. He advocates tax-free risk equalization reserves: Profits from good years should be able to be parked tax-free for bad years.

Opposition criticizes Klöckner's approach

"Julia Klöckner has so far failed to present concepts and measures," criticized Friedrich Ostendorff, the agricultural policy spokesman for the Green parliamentary group. Ostendorff calls for more funds for research and adaptation to changing climatic conditions, for example through diverse crop rotations, humus development and the strengthening of farms.

The Ministry of Agriculture points out, however, that since 2015, various funding programs have supported 67 research projects with a total amount of 54 million euros. The FDP parliamentary group warns against seeing transfer payments as a “panacea for climate-related changes in agriculture” and also calls for more money to be invested in research.

Forests have to become more resilient - that's why they are being rebuilt

Persistent drought and massive pest infestation made the forests difficult this spring. This is also due to the mild winter, after all the warmest since the beginning of the weather records. In this way, the survival of tree pests such as the bark beetle has been promoted, says Minister Klöckner. "Spring plantings are drying up, pests, diseases and forest fires are destroying our forests," warns Hans-Georg von der Marwitz, President of the Association of Forest Owners AGDW.

"Climate change does not stop: We fear a third year of drought and again the loss of entire forest areas." The association recently reported a dramatic situation from all federal states. They see an urgent need for action, for example, in improving liquidity in order to provide forestry operations and smaller forest owners with funds - also for forest conversion.

Lots of forest fires

Over the past few years there have been severe fires in German forests. This year, too, there was an increased risk of forest fires. "In 2018 alone we lost a forest area due to fires, the equivalent of around 3,300 soccer fields," says the Ministry of the Environment and the BMEL.

The ministries are now planning forest conversion to make the forests more resistant to fires and the unavoidable parts of climate change. Mixed and deciduous forests are considered to be more adaptable to extreme weather than pure coniferous forests.

Last year, the forests were so bad that the federal and state governments launched a large-scale aid and rescue program worth almost one billion euros at a national forest summit. The money is to be made available over four years to reforest destroyed areas, support forest owners and finance conversion programs. They are urgently needed, as a look at 2018 shows: There were over 1,700 fires in Germany.

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