Henan wheat harvest hit by heavy rains

Downpours have flooded wheat fields in Henan province just before harvest time, compromising a third of this year’s crop.

The rain fell for six days across the province, waterlogging fields, collapsing wheat stalks, and causing mould to form. Local government officials have described it as “the most destructive rain event” for the crop in the past decade. 

Henan, China’s largest wheat-growing province, is expected to yield about 38 million tonnes of wheat in 2023, accounting for 28% of national production. The recent rainfall has primarily affected wheat in the southern part of the province.

This year, wheat production in the affected part of Henan is contributing to around 30% of the province’s overall output, namely around 11 million tonnes, statistics show.

While overall production will not be substantially hit, the quality of the drenched wheat will be compromised.

In response, the agriculture ministry has directed local authorities to speed up the harvesting and drying of damaged grain. The provincial government has also allocated an emergency fund of 200 million yuan (US$28 million) to help.

Despite not historically being prone to heavy rainfall, Henan has experienced multiple extreme rain events in recent years. In 2021, torrential downpours flooded central Henan, resulting in over 300 fatalities and direct economic losses of 120 billion yuan (US$16.5 billion). 

A subsequent study by Chinese scientists revealed that human-caused climate change amplified rainfall during the floods by 7.5%, as a China Dialogue article explained

Adapting agriculture to changing climates and the associated extreme weather requires big changes. China’s National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035, published last year, emphasises adjusting crop types and planting schedules, enhancing extreme weather monitoring, and improving the resilience of agro-ecosystems.

Read China Dialogue’s earlier story on the challenges to a Chinese eco-farm posed by the warmer, wetter climate.