‘We've never seen anything like it,’ says a French farmer who has lost half of his harvest due to weather extremes.
Weeks of rainy weather followed by storm Patricia in early August have destroyed crops in northern France.
In the town of Sangatte, farmer Bertrand Baey has lost half of his oat crops to unseasonable weather.
"We've never seen anything like it," says Bertrand, a sixth-generation farmer who has been growing his crops since 2006. "We had a winter storm in the middle of summer."
The oats, which had not yet reached harvest maturity, lost a large proportion of their kernels, which fell to the ground due to the strong winds.
France's north saw gusts of up to 80 kilometres per hour and heavy rains in recent weeks during a stormy summer episode.
The autumn-like weather in the region came amid recent heatwaves in countries like Spain and Italy and wildfires that ravaged the Greek island of Rhodes.
Failed harvests have a knock-on effect on livestock
While Bertrand usually harvests around 3.2 tonnes of oats a year, he expects to harvest less than a tonne this season due to the unusual weather.
The commune of Sangatte saw double the usual amount of rain between September and March, says Bertrand.
"We couldn't drain the water away to the sea, the fields were flooded, I had to resow," he recalls. "And then in spring we had excessively dry weather and we couldn't get the plants to emerge. It's true that the weather is completely out of whack."
As a cattle breeder, Bertrand uses 50 per cent of his oat production to feed his cows. He usually sells the other half, which provides him with additional income. This year, he barely has enough to feed his animals.
He hopes to be able to benefit from government aid and crop insurance to compensate for his losses.
Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent
Bertrand says the failed harvest was due to climate events, which could become more and more recurrent in the coming years.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations's weather agency, has been repeatedly warning of an accelerating trend regarding natural disasters. The number of extreme weather events has increased nearly fivefold from the 1970s to the most recent decade, adding to signs that they are becoming more frequent due to global warming.
"We're going to have to question ourselves. There are some crops that we're going to have to stop growing and that we won't be able to do anymore," says Bertrand.
He believes that he'll soon have to stop growing spring crops due to his land's clayey soil but fears that flooding could disrupt winter crops, too. "We're going to have to find solutions," he adds.
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