Professor Tom Wilson says in the weeks and months ahead it will become clear which crops will survive and grow while studying the eruption’s impact on Tonga’s agriculture
Fears are growing that the volcanic ash from a massive underwater eruption off Tonga may damage the Pacific island nation’s main industry of agriculture.
International aid has been arriving, such as drinking water and emergency shelter. But ash has not been cleared away in many places, even nine days after the eruption.
Minoru Nishi, who runs a vegetable export company on the main island of Tongatapu, told NHK by phone on Monday that all farms are affected.
He said plants are covered in ash because there has been no rain since the eruption, and some plants have died.
Nishi added it will take three to four months to clear the ash, improve soil quality and resume farming. Concerns over food shortages are growing, especially on remote islands.
Nishi stressed the need for support from the Tongan government and surrounding countries.
Professor Tom Wilson of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand is studying the eruption’s impact on Tonga’s agriculture.
Wilson said on Monday that in the short term, the impact on agriculture will be moderate to potentially severe. He said the ash will likely collapse leaves, adding it could cause some acidic damage to plants.
He also said that in the medium term, in the weeks and months ahead, it will become clear which crops will survive and grow.
The professor said if ash can be removed from crops they will be able to recover relatively quickly provided there is no further ash fall.
He said removing ash should be a priority to minimize the damage to agriculture, saying that this a very important and sensitive period for Tongans.
This story was published at NHK on 24 January 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.