Weather variations and agricultural production

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It is widely accepted that Soviet agriculture performed poorly in the 1930s because of the destruction of traditional farming and of agricultural markets in the course of forcible collectivization. In addition, the poor weather that predominated in the 1930s could also be an important factor for crop failure in any particular year. Under Soviet political conditions, weather fluctuations were particularly damaging to agricultural development because the Soviet leaders, especially from the 1920s onwards, attached very little importance to their potential impact.

Wheatcroft discusses the role of both political and meteorological factors in the poor performance of Soviet agriculture in the 1930s (Wheatcroft and Davies, 1994). Their calculation of a "drought index" for the 1930s shows that bad weather played a significant role, particularly in the critical years of the collectivization drive in the early 1930s. The index of the predicted agrometeorological deviation from normal grain yield shows below-average conditions between 1930 and 1934 and between 1935 and 1939 (measured in centners per ha) (Table 5.7.). Poor weather conditions predominated throughout the period but, as the author notes, the reduction in yield was far too large to be explained by the weather alone. In the years 1930 to 1934, the average annual deviation of the grain yield from the trend as predicted by the weather indicator was minus 0.37 centners, but the actual deviation was as much as minus 1.83 centners. This indicates the strong influence of political factors throughout the period.

Our estimates confirm this position. Figure 5.1., based on the Western (low) estimates of grain production and the Hydrothermal Coefficient of Seljaninov, shows that the lowest harvests occurred in droughts. The most interesting thing here is that the variability of the grain production was small from year to year. This is evident when comparing the 1920s and 1930s. Generally, these two decades are close in relation to the range of deviation of yield from the trend, and the "weight" of both political and weather factors. But while the variability of the grain production for the 1930s reached only 12 percent, for the

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