Droughts in Hungary: The Shape of Things to Come

Lands depleted of water, irrigation needed for every patch of green – No this isn’t Dune, it’s a glimpse into Hungary’s future

Dry plant illuminated by setting sun.
Beeld: ©Mihály Köles
Dry plants illuminated by the setting winter sun in the Buda Landscape Protection Area near Budapest, Hungary. Normally, the middle and late winter period would see large amounts of precipitation, replenishing the soils with moisture - However, the dry and windy winter that Hungary experienced in the past months experienced did nothing to prepare the country for the year ahead.

Hungary’s National Meteorological Service reports that 2021 was the driest in the country’s last 120 years, and aside from a few patches of land in the Southwest and in the Northeast, most of Hungary’s soils are now missing 50-90 mm of moisture from the topsoil.

This means that should the coming spring and summer bring about dry spells again, there will be nothing to cushion the country’s farmlands from drought.

Edit Polgárné Sarok of the news portal Agroinform has commented that normally there should be late winter rains around this period of the year, returning soil moisture to levels near 100%. However, in most parts of the country, soils are now merely at 60% to 70% moisture. Mrs. Polgárné Sarok has further added that the uncharacteristically windy weather has also dried the lands, and that near Budapest as well as in certain parts of the Great Plains, the moisture in the topsoil is now critical at 40%.

In the past years, various projects have been started in Hungary to address the issue of aridization and/or desertification, including research into drought resistant crops and irrigation development irrigation development.

Precision agriculture and precision irrigation also offer new solutions. However, out of Hungary’s total farmland area of 5 million 49 thousand hectares, only 111 thousand (less than 2%) was regularly irrigated last year.

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