Snowfall brings respite to wheat crops in China (Lead)

February 11th, 2011 - 2:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Shaan Beijing, Feb 11 (IANS) Light to moderate snowfall has brought relief to the winter wheat crops in drought-hit areas of China, where more than seven million hectares of farmland have been affected due to a lingering drought.The snowfall occurred Thursday in the parched grain-producing provinces of Anhui, Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Jiangsu, said Yang Guiming, chief forecaster of the National Meteorological Centre.

The southern parts of Henan province and the western and northern parts of Anhui province have received snowfall ranging from 11 mm to 23 mm, the China Daily reported.

“But the volume, so far, is small so its drought-relief effect is limited,” said Yang.

“The snow came at the right time, especially in Jiangsu, Anhui and southern parts of Henan province, where the winter wheat is undergoing a crucial growing period,” Lu Bu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told the daily.

In the drought-hit regions of Hebei and Shandong provinces, the snow will help tackle plant disease and pests, he added.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 487 cloud-seeding operations had been conducted in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Anhui and Shandong, with 1,201 rockets and 1,867 shells, according to official data.

In Beijing, 759 silver iodide rods were used Thursday to increase snowfall, Xinhua reported quoting Zhang Qiang, head of the municipal weather office, as saying.

The National Meteorological Centre forecast that a strong cold front will bring more snow to the drought-hit provinces over the weekend.

Over the next two days, 1 to 3 mm of snow are expected to fall in parts of Shanxi, Hebei and Shandong and light snow is forecast for Beijing, Tianjin and parts of Henan, it said.

Since October, most parts of central and eastern China, the key regions for wheat production, have suffered severe drought.

A total of 7.8 million hectares of winter wheat crops have been affected in eight provinces, which account for more than 42 percent of the total wheat-sown areas, according to the agriculture ministry.

“The drought will cause severe damage to the harvest if no measures are taken,” Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said in Beijing Wednesday.

The government Wednesday pledged $1 billion to fight drought after the UN warned that lack of rain could pose a “very serious” problem to China’s winter wheat crop.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Thursday that the drought has threatened the summer crop yield and called for measures to guarantee a bumper harvest.

“We have the confidence and capability to ensure efficient supply of agricultural products, particularly grain, and to keep overall price levels basically stable,” he said.

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