Dry Weather Threatens Italy’s Famous Grape, Olive Crops

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 better 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 damaged production.

Agricultural entrepreneur Filippo Legnaioli and his colleague look at deadwood and dried olive trees, as Tuscany’s famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy, July 29, 2022. (REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

“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 drip irrigation system with which a farm waters its olive trees is pictured, as Tuscany's famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy, July 29, 2022. (REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

The drip irrigation system with which a farm waters its olive trees is pictured, as Tuscany’s famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy, July 29, 2022. (REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

The system works through a pipe placed under 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 annual grape harvest. But with continued high temperatures, many grapes are ripening earlier than expected.

General view of an olive tree farm irrigated with a drip water system, as Tuscany's famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy, July 29, 2022. (REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

General view of an olive tree farm irrigated with a drip water system, as Tuscany’s famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy, July 29, 2022. (REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini)

“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 a hurricane 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.”

To my Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.

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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 developing into full form

ripen v. to become ripe: developed enough to be eaten

a hurricane n. a sudden fall of hail: small, hard balls of ice that fall from the sky like rain

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