“All projects I am involved in are based on aspects of water conservation and permanent soil cover, adding organic matter and increasing wood cover. Those are the weapons we are equipped with against desertification.
We adopt these principles regardless of the more or less aggravated situation, creating systems with new and old varieties. Old varieties of fruit and citrus trees have resisted better because they have already fought against extreme events and stored climate changes in their genetic background. Modern, productive varieties and tropical fruits suffered the most from the 40 degrees reached in July 2020, but also from frosts taking place out of season.
Still, drought in Sicily has been uniform over the past 3 years. However, this year hasn’t recorded worse scores just because it rained a lot during last fall. On the one hand, these rains helped reduce the drastic high temperatures; on the other, they occurred at a time when it generally does not rain. The collected water got dirty with land and was paradoxically unusable; in addition, these phenomena caused an enormous amount of erosion.
Almost all plantations are equipped with drip irrigation, especially citrus and avocados. In the last two years, we still had to adopt an emergency irrigation system within the LIFE project, providing very little water, only two litres per plant: without this measure it would not have been possible to move forward.
By contrast, I recently travelled to the North and saw that the drought there has become very critical. In some ways, if areas that usually get more rain catch an extreme drought event, they suffer more than areas that are used to overcome them such as the Mediterranean, where more resistant crops are planted.