NE China granary battles drought amid farming season

09:19, May 10, 2011      

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Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, a major grain producer in the country, is battling the drought that has affected a vast farming area, sources with the provincial agricultural commission said Monday.

Nearly 25 million mu, or 1.7 million hectares, of farmland in the province have been affected by the spring's lack of precipitation, the commission said in a statement.

Soil moisture is low in the western regions of the province with relative humidity dropping below 70 percent in 16 counties, according to the statement.

The drought situation in three counties is "very severe," said the statement.

Heilongjiang, the country's granary, turned out more than 100 million tonnes of grain last year, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the nation's total.

To fight the effects of the drought, farmers in the province have been mobilized to explore underground water supplies by drilling wells to ensure normal farming.

Meanwhile, water-saving irrigation methods such as recycling are also being used to ease the problem.

Other parts of the country are also suffering from a lingering drought that has lowered water levels in rivers and dried up reservoirs.

In central China's Henan Province, experts predict that nearly 10 million mu (about 667,000 hectares) of forests face threats from pests.

That accounts for about 13 percent of the province's total forest area.

Experts attribute the potential breakout of forest pests to last winter's drought, which lowered the trees' pest-prevention capabilities.

The spring drought also forced the government of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to purchase another rainfall enhancement aircraft in the hopes of bringing more precipitation to the region's vast grasslands.

The aircraft is one of the five rainers that the government of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the country's major pasturing area, has purchased since 2009 at a cost of 110 million yuan (17 million U.S. dollars).

Parts of China have experienced severe drought, mostly in central and southern regions, since the start of this year, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

The water level of the Yangtze River has fallen sharply as a result of the drought, and several sections of China's longest waterway may create dangerous conditions for shipping traffic.

Provinces like Hubei, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Yunnan and Sichuan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have been plagued by drought.

According to Zhou Yuehua, a meteorologist with the Hubei Provincial Meteorological Bureau, this year's drought is partly due to the weather pattern known as La Nina.

La Nina causes lower sea surface temperatures, which in turn affects precipitation levels, Zhou explained.

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