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    First time in 50 years I water my fields in february": climate change land on Oristano's agriculture.

    "The plants are exhausted, they went through very difficult months", says Monica Secci, agronomist of "Sa Marigosa", as she crosses the artichoke field of the big company, whose vast crops are scattered throughout the territory between the coasts of Sinis Peninsula and the Cabras pond. The plants’ leaves are stained by straw yellow, which on the edges becomes parched gray. The few remaining artichokes are small, open and burnt by the sun. “We have been watering for a month by now. Usually we start in April. The heavy rains of October and November suddenly came to a halt, the plants could not make their natural cycle. It is as if we had no winter, even if during the nighttime the temperature plunges creating further difficulties for the cultivation”, continues Secci. Even the young olive trees that surround the field have been water. Sa Marigosa uses the brackish one coming from the old wells, which were dug decades ago in order to provide for the absent infrastructures. Generators are used to extract it, and their fumes and noise spread out fill the countryside silence for most of the day.

    “It’s a dramatic situation. With the irrigation started in January the costs have increased. Such a climate has meant that our harvest coincided with those of the other Italian regions, a phenomenon that has inevitably caused a price plunge. We are giving most of the product to industry for transformation for the fresh product is unsellable", explains Paolo Mele, one of the founding members of Sa Marigosa and president of Confagricoltura Oristano. It is still premature to assess the growth of herbals, cereals and orchards. A drastic and sudden return of winter temperatures could compromise their growth. "The Oristano Reclamation Consortium reacted promptly to the request for water from our members, but we must do more. Fundamental then is avoiding any kind of waste. According to the estimates of Consortium between 20 and thirty percent of the water is lost in the distribution system. A huge amount”, states Mele.

    "It is possible that due to this drought many companies will be barely able to cover their costs", says Emanuele Spanò, director of Coldiretti Oristano. “Temperatures and the lack of rain have distorted the normal cycle of growth. Almond, peach and apricot trees are already blooming. As in the rest of the peninsula, beekeeping faces great difficulties. But artichoke growers pay the highest price for climate change: “The result is that 60% of the product is no longer marketable. With the current climate in 15 days there will be no more artichokes in the fields", says Ciro Enna, producer of Oristano. For this reason Coldiretti organized the "Artichoke day" on Saturday 29 February, a solidarity day of sale at low prices. A meritorious initiative which, however, must not make us forget the need for structural interventions in the sector, as Spanò underlines: "Coldiretti asks the Sardinia Region for a permanent forum, the elaboration of a dedicated Rural Development Plan. We must try to trigger a cultural change to tackle climate change and adapt if necessary. Some of our associates have long ago started the cultivation of exotic products such as kiwano, yacon and finger lime".

    The Reclamation Consortium met the trade associations in early January. The ordinary irrigation season, scheduled for April, had been anticipated to March 1. "In mid-January, however, the absence of rain led us to anticipate the supply of water to 10 February. From that moment we went on as if it were the summer season", explains Cristiano Carrus, temporary special commissioner of Consortium. The supply, currently interrupted due to maintenance work, can be restored at any time in case of emergency. In the meanwhile, the Consortium has also moved in other directions. It has recovered and distributed 1500 meters, which will help many companies to rationalize consumption and payments. Twenty-five companies have joined the "Irriframe" portal, capable of supporting farmers with clear indications on the times, quantities and modes of irrigation. The Sardinian regional government has allocated 860,000 euros for the extraordinary maintenance of the channels in service for agricultural production, while the Ministry of Agriculture has just notified a loan of 6 million for the reorganization of the consortium network. By the end of the year, the Ministry will also authorize the 4 million euros project that, after decades of waiting, will lead to the construction of the irrigation network of the Sinis Sud district. "We await the rain anyway", underlines Carrus.

    “All the survey stations in western Sardinia register an identical trend: abundant rainfall in October and especially in November. Then a complete stop, except for two 10 mm-episodes", explains Michele Fiori, researcher of the ARPAS Meteoclimatic Department, who adds: "Although the quantity of water in the reservoirs does not allow us to define the present one as a generalized drought, certainly the period faced by the farms can be defined as dry. We should have rainfall over the next two weeks".

    “Many cows have fallen ill, we are witnessing a drop in milk production, and worsening of its quality. We have already activated the fans and we often bathe the animals", says Luigi Nuvoli, together with his brother Salvatore, a veteran farmer from Arborea. “I’ve never irrigated in February in half a century. Fortunately, the Consortium acted efficiently. We hope that cereals and herbs will absorb the stress suffered these months. The rains of October and November deceived many people, pushing them to sow. Then everything stopped".

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