Drought: “I don’t want my farm to disappear,” a farmer changes crops to survive

the essential
Between the lack of water and the limitation of the volume of water intended for irrigation, Boris Rouquet, a farmer from Ariège in Mazères, quickly decided to change the type of crop to get by. Testimony.

This is a year that promises to be already complicated for farmers. In Ariège, while, as everywhere in France, the lack of water is evident, the Chamber of Agriculture of Ariège has decided to limit the volume of water intended for sprinklers in the department to 50%. To help agricultural professionals, the institution has also given indications advising in particular to go, for this season in which the Montbel lake is currently only 22 or 23% filled, towards types of culture that have less need for water contribution.

“I have decided to reduce the number of hectares of seed corn”

Even before making these observations, in his exploitation of 250 hectares of cereals (mainly corn, wheat, rapeseed, sunflower and beans) in Mazères, Boris Rouquet decided to anticipate this drought. The 47-year-old farmer explains his choice: “I know how rivers fill up and I started worrying in November. I waited a bit and when I saw that there was no rain or snow and the lake was not filled in December, I decided to reduce the number of hectares of corn for seed”.

A decision that the 47-year-old farmer has changed over time. “At the beginning of January, of my 120 hectares of seed corn that I usually irrigate, I chose to till 20 hectares and cultivate durum wheat instead. At the end of January, I continued with this logic. I was able to have a spring rapeseed contract, which I sown to remove 25 hectares of corn. Finally, a few days ago, I introduced sunflower seed at the expense of 17 hectares of corn”. In total, Boris Rouquet has chosen to halve his hectares of seed maize, a plant that requires no more water than any other but needs watering at a time when water is scarce.

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Drought: limitation of the volume of water for farmers in Ariège

Unprofitable cultural changes

With limited water volume this year and concerns about a possible increase in restrictions from the prefecture that could go as far as banning farmers from irrigating, the future of the remaining acres, usually used for seed corn, remains in the dark. suspended . “I would adapt according to the Montbel filling,” confides the farmer, inevitably bewildered by the situation.

At the helm of the company since 1999, after having succeeded his father, the Mazérien who has, at his side, a partner and an employee, already knows that this year 2023 will be financially difficult. “Today I don’t have too many solutions. I can instead grow sunflowers or sorghum or even do nothing. So if I don’t do anything, I don’t do any shopping because even if I do this kind of crop that doesn’t need water, I won’t do any loads, on the contrary , I would be negative. So maybe it will be better for my company to leave the remaining hectares fallow and that’s it.”

It is a bit disillusioned and heartbroken that he continues: “I will try to survive with the half that I have planted by deciding to change crops and again, as long as it rains a little so that my wheat and rapeseed can run out because it is necessary however to succeed to harvest what I have already planted and do not water. I pray every morning for rain.”

A huge deficit

In full doubt about the follow-up given to these summer harvests, Boris Rouquet believes that it will be necessary to wait until the last moment to know exactly what to do, especially based on the filling rate of Lake Montbel. The lower Ariège farmer knows in particular that the loss of income could be enormous if a state decision forbids irrigation and that it will be limited in the event of a rainy spring. Either way, your company’s change of culture will have consequences. “I made this decision to quickly change my culture because I don’t want my farm to disappear. I’d rather earn less, secure a small income, than earn nothing.”

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