Clermont-Ferrand (AFP)

"Today, nothing grows, if tomorrow it continues, it is the desert and the end of agriculture in Auvergne": as Marion Vedel, farmer in Solignat (Puy-de-Dôme), farmers and professionals are worried about their future after the poor harvest due to drought.

In contrast to the rest of France, where wheat and other grain producers had a good year overall, the Auvergne harvests were disappointing.

In Limagne, plain of field crops located in the heart of the Puy-de-Dôme, the average yield of wheat stands at 50 quintals per hectare against 60 usually, told AFP the Limagrain cooperative, which has 2,000 members .

"The financial impact will unfortunately be strong for the farms because the gross product for a standard wheat of 50 quintals per hectare does not cover operating expenses and fixed costs", adds the seed company.

According to its own weather records, the rainfall over the last 12 months was 380 millimeters in Limagne against 600 mm usually.

Particularity of the Auvergne: the region suffers its second consecutive summer drought "after a very dry winter and spring on all its central part, from the south of the Allier to the north of the Haute-Loire", explains David Chauve, president of the FNSEA (main agricultural union) of Puy-de-Dôme.

In southern Limagne, some farms "have harvested 15 quintals per hectare", according to Nicolas Coudrey of the departmental chamber of agriculture.

"The losses are substantial, and overall it's historic: we did not have such big losses, even in exceptional years," he says.

As for other crops, they should not be better: "corn has run out of water as everywhere in France". "They are not beautiful and sometimes have to be destroyed, but here, farmers will not be able to catch up on wheat," said Adeline Juvion, FNSEA Puy-de-Dome.

- Dry dam -

Spectacular consequence of this drought: the dam of the Sep, in the north of the department, built in 1994 for the irrigation of some 200 farms of Limagne, has been dry since July 20, a situation usually noted in the fall.

"This is a first since the construction of the dam," notes Michel Cohade, himself a farmer and president of the mixed union for the development of the Upper Morge, which manages the dam, adding that a reflection is in progress " to secure the filling ".

"We can not irrigate anymore and it is a catastrophe for all crops: wheat, rapeseed, maize, beetroot, legumes", explains Mr. Cohade.

In Solignat, in the south of the department, Marion Vedel estimates to have been "saved" by irrigation. But "we harvested half less wheat than a normal year, 70% less hay and 30% less corn," says the farmer who also raises nearly 1,000 ewes.

The beet crop in the autumn looks just as bad: "we should lose between 30% to 40%," she says.

Like other farmers who also breed, she usually recovers the pulp of her beet (after the extraction of sugar) to feed her animals: "we can not count on it this year to compensate for the lack of hay", regrets- she.

In the meantime, she will not expand her herd as planned and turns to crops such as oats and clover that have the advantage of growing faster to replace fodder.

© 2019 AFP