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French corn farmers turning to drip irrigation

THOUARS, France -- Corn farmers in the verdant plains of southwestern France have responded to dwindling water resources by adopting drip irrigation — a money-saving technique invented in the 1960s in Israel.

Initially adopted in water-poor regions including the vineyards and orchards of southern France, the method has begun appearing in big agriculture further north in the past three years.

Tension over water use is emerging in the southwest where corn is a major crop, warns agronomist Marc Dufumier, author of a book seeking to dispel dubious conventional wisdom on farming and food.

“There are these tensions because of cultural changes in these areas and the advent of corn in the late 1980s, which requires more water, especially in chalky soil,” said Alexis Delaunay of the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (Onema).

Some farmers are upset over water rationing.

Broaching the subject with Joel Herault, a farmer in the western Deux-Sevres area, is delicate.

He was slapped with a 1,000-euro (US$1,370) fine for ignoring water rationing orders, saying they are too severe.

“It gave me a depression,” he said bitterly.

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This picture taken on May 5 shows a French wheat field irrigated by a drip irrigation system in Pas-de-Jeu, near Thouars, Western France. (AFP)

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