Saturday, May 21

The storm Filomena gives an oxygen balloon to the Vega Baja garden

A terrace of artichokes from the traditional Orihuela garden, watered by the rains of the last few days.  |  TONY SEVILLA

A terrace of artichokes from the traditional Orihuela garden, watered by the rains of the last few days. | TONY SEVILLA

The storm Filomena is going to leave up to 40 liters per square meter of rain in the garden and the Vega Baja field. Quite a “blessing” in the words of the farmers of Bajo Segura who added months of very little rainfall with a very dry autumn and winter. The cold has also been welcomed, without intense frosts. Citrus fruits, which are the protagonists of the agricultural landscape of the orchard, needed that rainwater and the cold to bloom with more force in spring.

The moment in which the rainfall episode and its intensity has been ideal. The water has been soaking the earth little by little, from the evening of the 7th to this Sunday. The agrarian unions Asaja and La Unió agree on this, as well as the water courts and the irrigation communities of the Sindicato del Tajo-Segura. The storm has been positive for all crops. The artichoke in full production, the citrus -fine lemon- and mandarins. Even for the almond tree in the dry areas of Torremendo and Barbarroja – there are barely 1,500 hectares left that needed rain and cold to begin to see a flowering that this year has not been seen in December as is usual in the region. «It is a very good water. A blessing. Without harming, it has fallen little by little and when it was most needed, ”explains the president of Asaja in Orihuela, José Vicente Andreu. In the traditional garden this season, the farmers clarify, is the equivalent of a round of irrigation of the Segura river. It is water, therefore, that is saved from the usual drainage to provide the traditional irrigation network and that can be used for the dates when it is most needed, in the middle of summer. The rain is also good for the environmental state of the Segura river and its waters, with which it is. Normally the river barely circulates with an ecological flow that with many difficulties exceeds two meters per second. The headwater rains have given it a break and has exceeded nine in its final section between Rojales and Guardamar, according to data from the Segura Hydrographic Confederation and this weekend it is likely that there will be a greater increase. The rain on the terraces reduces the salinity of the land, which, in the case of the orchard, is irrigated with water resources from the Segura that present conductivity levels well above those recommended.

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Image of a citrus terrace in the Orihuela garden taken last Friday. | TONY SEVILLA

José Manuel Pamies, a farmer, member of the Unió, also expresses satisfaction with the satisfaction that this water will make it possible to improve the caliber of some varieties of mandarin now in the middle of the final harvest season, in addition to the fine lemon -whose demand has fallen because the 40 % is purchased by the hospitality sector – after the export boom during the first wave of the pandemic in March-April. The lemon is vital for the agricultural sector and especially in the Vega Baja where most of the surface is concentrated: it has an annual turnover of around 110 million euros in the province. While the artichoke has once again reached 2 euros per kilo at first sale after starting the season with three euros per kilo and down to 90 cents. The artichoke production, encompassed around the Vega Baja orchard and the Elche field, has an annual turnover of around 15 million euros.

400 hectometres in the Segura headwater reservoirs

Before the reservoirs at the head of the Segura, such as the Cenajo, would receive around three hectometres of water, the percentage of dammed water was 35%. Identical to the previous year at this time. To this volume will surely be added the flow of the thaw of large areas of the Segura and Alcaraz mountains In the coming weeks they keep a layer of snow, thanks to the cold, since the end of December. That 35%, just over 400 hectometres, is still 10% less than the average of the last ten years.

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