“When drought becomes the norm, we need to explore new paths”

Just like their colleagues in other countries throughout Southeastern Europe, Romania’s farmers have been frequently grappling with extreme periods of drought for years. The drought stress has been detrimental to the corn crop. Modern plant breeding is giving rise to hope.

The worry lines on Marcu Razvan’s forehead are deep. The farmer is standing on a corn field located near the small Romanian city of Alexandria looking around with a perplexed expression on his face. Harvest time is right around the corner and the light yellow leaves, the state of the developing kernels on the cobs and the ankle-deep ruts in the ground are all evidence of the drought that has gone on for several months.

Marcu Razvan lets out a noticeable sigh. He has a degree in agricultural engineering and has been cultivating mainly corn and wheat, in addition to sunflowers, rapeseed and barley, on around 970 hectares of land in Alexandria, which is an approximately two-hour drive away from Bucharest. The soils in this region are generally ideally suited for crop production, as they have a high percentage of clay, which could theoretically result in healthy yields. However, over the past few years, there have been several periods during spring and summer where it does not rain at all for weeks. Thus, while the plants do grow tall, many of the crops have not developed sufficiently.

Marcu Razvan explains that large-scale sprinkling measures are technically not an option and especially not affordable. At least some of the corn fields receive around 20 liters of water per square meter every three days. The difference to the non-irrigated field sections is clearly recognizable. “But there is no water pump that can replace real rain.”

In addition to the drought, the significant temperature fluctuations have also posed considerable problems: “We have differences of up to 20 degrees in just one day, which is combined with nights that are far too cold. This is just too much for the plants to handle! When I’m in the field, I can actually feel that the corn is not developing properly.”

Nevertheless, his passion for farming remains undaunted. “When drought becomes the norm, we need to explore new paths,” says Marcu Razvan. In the course of this, he has had positive experiences with the hybrid seeds from KWS. Modern varieties prevent pollination from being delayed, therefore enabling optimum cob formation. This creates corn plants that are better equipped to handle drought stress. Marcu Razvan explains: “This is a huge help, because ideally this amounts to between 20 and 30 percent until the harvest.”

Just how well his corn crop will turn out this year will be revealed over the next few weeks. “I just love the harvest,” says Marcu Razvan with a mischievous grin. “Seeing the result of my work year in and year out is simply the best of all.”

KWS conducts extensive research on the topic of drought stress

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