Concerns have rocketed over a surge in farm and crop fires as the blistering heatwave showed no sign of letting up.
Beef and arable farmers Andrew and Diane Hollinshead, Sandbach, Cheshire, experienced a major blow to their three-hectare field last Friday (July 8) when it caught fire from a spark off the combine.
Mr Hollinshead put it down to the bearing in the combine getting too hot.
He said: “We came out the field with the combine because we saw some smoke. While we were sorting that out the corn sparked at the other end of the field where we were combining.
“As soon as we managed to put it out it was sparking up again. We were trying to keep it away from the uncombined corn, but it wiped it all out.”
Others reported combine blazes due to headers striking stones in fields, with many holding slurry tankers full of water on standby during harvest.
With grass growth stalled, farmers suggested they were averaging only two-and-a-half bales of hay per hectare and farmers in Gloucester were forced to cut nearby moorland to bale for use in Wales.
Farmers in Scotland were however refusing to commit to selling straw, despite talk about baling more and chopping less, especially in the south.
Kendal dairy farmer James Robinson said: “I have never cut so little grass before. We have had half an inch of rain in seven weeks.
“I am mowing what is left of our second-crop grass for silage and it is a sobering reminder of why the UK livestock industry is so dependent on regular rainfall.”
Sue Porter, a smallholder in the Cambrian Mountains, said she was ‘desperate’ for rain after the farm’s private water supply dried up four weeks ago.
“I am aching all over now from carrying water from our neighbours stream,” she said. “It has been four weeks now and it is going to take a fair bit to replenish it.”
NFU Mutual’s rural affairs specialist Tim Price said the good weather from May and June meant harvest was already underway weeks earlier than usual, with ‘conditions dryer than the fabled summer of 1976’.
The dry weather was an urgent reminder for farmers have evacuation and fire-fighting plans prepared, he added.