Monday, April 19, 2021

Dry spring fuels harvest concern

June 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Crops

LACK of rainfall is having an increasing impact on crops across the region, with growers battling to maximise yields.

Stunted cereal crops are expected to yield little more than half their potential. Crops on lighter soils are particularly affected. In some areas, damage is now irreversible with serious amounts of water needed to fill grains.

Many growers able to do so have irrigated cereals. But low water levels have left limited supplies available for potatoes and vegetable crops. Unirrigated barley under severe stress on some farms has been redrilled with maize.

Speaking after talks last month with farm leaders, water companies and agency officials, Defra secretary Caroline Spelman said: “We’re not in a drought yet, although the severity of dry conditions differs from place to place.”

East Anglia remains the UK’s driest region, with just 5mm of rainfall during April– 11% of the monthly average. Once again, Met Office figures are expected to show that May was another dry month without any significant rain.

Soil moisture levels at the start of April were more usual for the start of June, according to the UK Irrigation Association. The situation was becoming serious, said UKIA executive secretary Melvyn Kay.

“Farmers expect dry spells and this is why they invest in irrigation. But if dry conditions continue then the situation is likely to change significantly. The main concern is among those who grow cereals and potatoes.”

The NFU said many crops had the capacity to recover. It remained too early to predict what eventual impact the dry spring would have in terms of yields this harvest, said an NFU spokesman.

Soil moisture deficit continued to be a big issue, the spokesman said. Where water was available, growers were irrigating heavily but facing mounting pressure from restrictions on some abstraction sites.

Water companies monitoring the situation insisted they were confident of maintaining supplies. Anglian Water said a £116m investment allowed up to 25% more water to be taken from its reservoir at Rutland.

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