Warm winter weather combined with the prolonged drought that has
gripped a wide swathe of China have put crops at risk across the
country, officials have said.
Unseasonably high temperatures last winter caused wheat, the
country's second most important crop after rice, to grow
extraordinarily fast in many areas, making it more vulnerable to
drastic weather changes, the Ministry of Agriculture said
The average temperature during the past winter was minus 2.4 C,
nearly 2 C higher than normal, official statistics showed.
The higher temperature has caused 3.1 million hectares of wheat,
or 15 percent of the total area planted with winter wheat, to grow
abnormally lushly, ministry official Wang Xiaobing said.
In addition the warm weather allowed insects and bacteria
survive the winter, meaning farms could expect to see more pests
and diseases this year, he said.
For example, at least 840,000 hectares of wheat, mostly in
central China, are suffering from yellow rust disease, a kind of
fungus that affects plants, according to ministry statistics.
"We must bring the infection under control or it could spread to
other key grain producers, like Hebei Province in north China, Henan Province in central China and Shandong Province in east China," said
Wang said the ministry has urged local agricultural departments
to prepare contingency plans for possible cold snaps and strong
winds that may affect wheat seedlings.
Meanwhile, the drought that has stretched through the winter has
adversely affected an even larger area.
At least 13.5 million hectares of farmland in China had been hit
by drought by the end of last month, according to the latest
statistics from the State Flood Control and Drought Relief
The situation has aggravated water shortages in north China and
could affect spring ploughing, a Xinhua report quoted Tian Yitang,
deputy chief of the headquarters' general office, as saying.
For example, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has 1.01
billion cubic meters of water reserves, less than half the total in
normal years, the Beijing-based headquarters said in a release.
The Central Meteorological Station has forecast strong rainfalls
in south China, and relatively more precipitation for the eastern
part of Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality in southwest China in
the coming 10 days, which will help relieve the drought in those
Ministry of Agriculture official Wang said he believed the
current drought would not make a significant dent in the country's
Wheat accounts for nearly 90 percent of the crops harvested in
summer. Summer grain, mainly wheat and early rice, which is sown in
spring, contributes to a quarter of China's total grain production,
according to Wang.
The ministry has asked local areas to do what they can to
By the end of March, Shanxi Province in north China had dug at
least 25,000 wells to water 213,300 hectares of farmland, according
to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
(China Daily April 4, 2007)