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Fields more susceptible to drought

More than a quarter of Switzerland's agricultural land is at risk of drought while irrigation would not be enough to save crops, according to research.

A map based on data collected between 1980 and 2006 by the federal agricultural research station Agroscope demonstrates that potentially drought-susceptible regions extend beyond the country's traditionally dry areas.

Research showed that over the 25-year span certain regions of the Rhine valley, eastern and central Switzerland and the Jura have been affected by new drought.

Other areas, such as the eastern plateau, some alpine valleys in canton Graubünden, the Rhone valley and lower regions of canton Ticino are already at risk of regular dry spells.

Irrigation is not adequate to ward off crop loses, Agroscope found. At present, only 38,000 hectares of arable land have sufficient water to stave off a crop-killing drought. Ten times as much irrigation would be needed to save all of Switzerland's crops.

A heat wave in 2003 provided an example of what the future may hold, Agroscope said. That year one fifth of the country's harvest was destroyed on average, with some farmers losing half their crops. and agencies