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Heatwave forecast for Easter period exacerbates UK farmers’ drought fears

Farmers across the country are growing increasingly concerned about the prospects for this year’s grass growth and crops because of the recent dry weather.


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Heatwave forecast for Easter period exacerbates farmers’ drought fears

Their anxiety has been compounded by forecasts of temperatures above 21 degrees over the Easter weekend, with little predicted rainfall.

 

Silage harvests could be particularly hard hit, making life difficult for farmers who started the year with low stocks after last year’s drought.

 

The dry spell is a stark contrast to April 2018, when the UK was hit by the ‘Beast From the East’, which left huge swathes of the country blanketed in snow.

 

Paul Temple, a beef and arable farmer from East Yorkshire, said: “The dry weather is really pulling on crops.

 

“In the past we have had dry springs with moisture in the sub-soil, but this year we do not, because we had a long, dry summer and we did not get a proper recharge over winter.


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“It could affect a lot of cereal crops’ survival, but my biggest concern is grass. We are working with zero stocks going into next year, so every ounce of silage grass is important.”

 

Essex arable farmer and chairman of the NFU’s combinable crops board Tom Bradshaw said his crops had excellent potential, but he was ‘very worried’ about how dry the soils were becoming.

 

“In terms of yield, at the moment it has not cost us anything, but what happens over the next six to ten weeks will be critical,” he added.

 

For root crop farmers relying on abstraction, new restrictions on licences are expected to cause serious problems.

 

“There is real concern about how they will cope with the coming season,” said Mr Bradshaw.

 

Infrastructure

 

With climate change increasing the likelihood of long, hot summers in the UK, concerns have been raised about whether the right infrastructure is in place to help farmers manage water properly.

 

Paul Hammett, the NFU’s water resources specialist, told Farmers Guardian the Government was looking at resilience to water scarcity, but more work needed to be done, particularly around making the planning process for on-farm reservoirs shorter and cheaper.

 

“We have seen an increase in reservoir infrastructure on farms over the past couple of decades and that has put us in a much better position than we would have been,” he said.

 

“We are not there yet, but in future farmers may join reservoir schemes with water companies and other users like the energy sector.

 

“We are all taking the future threat of dry summers really seriously.”

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