Frost and hail destroy more than 12,000 hectares of cropland in highland region of Puno

Extreme temperatures continue to wreck havoc in Peru’s southern altiplano, where frost and hail have destroyed more than 12,000 hectares of cropland since January, state news agency Andina reported on Thursday.

In Puno – where 260,000 hectares of land have been seeded – 12,000 hectares of mainly potato crops have been destroyed, and 700,000 affected by the frost and hail.

These weather conditions are normal for this time of year, said the Director of Puno’s Agrarian Information Office, Gerardo Laque Montalvo. “We do live in the altiplano, more than 3,600 meters above sea level, and frost and hail are normal, not a novelty.”

“Right now we’re calm,” Laque added, “because the percentage of crop failure isn’t high. However we are paying close attention, and have alerted all the agrarian agencies.”

According to the UNDP, the Puno area presents three types of constraints that contribute to
its vulnerability: environmental constraints, isolation and/or lack of access infrastructure and malnutrition and/or poor health.

In Puno, the high altitude is the main environmental constraint due to the difficulty it presents for agrarian activities. Close to 70 percent of Puno’s surface area lies within a zone with pronounced temperature oscillations within a 24-hour period, and is subject to a high probability of frost events during critical fenology periods.

However, despite its high altitude location, Puno is home to one of the first intensive agricultural societies in the world, in which several crops were domesticated for such high altitude environments and extreme climate fluctuations. These crops – such as potato, barley, and quinoa – not only have a high resistance to climate related impacts but also have a high nutritional value.

The introduction of European crops and development techniques during Peru’s colonial period may have contributed to current negative indicators such as the recurrent loss of cultivated land due to emergencies – where Puno is ranked third nationally in the 1995-2005 period.

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