Farmers in Italy’s famous Tuscany area are struggling to save grape and olive crops threatened by a heatwave and drought conditions.
A lack of rainfall since spring has even affected plants that traditionally grow well in hot and dry weather.
In San Casciano in Val di Pesa, near Florence, olive trees line the hillsides. But farmers say the dry soil is preventing the trees from producing the normal amount of fruit.
Tuscany is famous around the world for its olive oil and wine from grapes. But growers in the area say dry, hot weather has recently had a major effect on the crops and harmed production.
"We had a very dry spring with practically no rain from March to today,” olive grower Filippo Legnaioli told Reuters. He said this year’s heat and lack of water happened during an important time, when the flowers were changing to fruit.
Without water, many flowers fall to the ground before they can produce fruit. Legnaioli said this year's oil production could be reduced by up to 60 percent.
Other olive growers have decided to change some of their farming methods. They have added extra watering systems to make up for the lack of rainfall and hot temperatures.
Farmer Luigi Calonaci told Reuters the “rescue” watering methods aim "to protect the production of olives on the plants.”
The system works through a pipe placed beneath the trees to release small amounts of water. Calonaci’s farm has also been using a white netting material to protect the plants from olive fruit flies, whose larvae feed on the fruit of the trees. While the farmers say that problem is not directly related to the drought, it can also cause big crop losses.
The effects of climate change have not only affected production and plants but have also created new areas in Italy where crops can be grown. A few years ago, olive farms were mainly found in hot and dry areas such as Sicily. Now, areas such as Val d'Aosta in the far north of Italy – which is famous for its ski resorts and mountains – can produce their own oil.
Climate change is also affecting wine crops in Tuscany. In Chianti, for example, September is normally the month for the yearly grape harvest. But with continued high temperatures, many grapes are ripening earlier than expected.
"We have smaller grapes, and we expect the number of grapes to be lower than the average of the last few years,” said Sergio Zingarelli, who helps lead a local grape farming group.
In addition to the reduction in grapes caused by the current heatwave, wine growers also have to deal with other extreme weather events.
Paolo Cianferoni is the owner of Chianti’s "Caparsa" winery. He said a hailstorm recently destroyed 40 percent of grapes in the area. He told Reuters, “Luckily the quality of the grapes has not been affected, so we'll see what happens."
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
drought – n. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain
practically – adv. in a suitable or useful way
net – n. a material made of crossed threads with holes between them
larva – n. (larvae pl.) the form of some creatures before then develop into full form
ripen – v. to become ripe: developed enough to be eaten
hailstorm – n. a sudden fall of hail: small, hard balls of ice that fall from the sky like rain
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