Wet weather is bad news for har­vests and live­stock alike

Western Mail - - COUNTRY & FARMING -

Acold, wet March has made it hard to get crops planted and grow­ing, with po­ten­tial knock-on ef­fects for har­vests, farm­ers have warned.

Dif­fi­cult con­di­tions have af­fected the plant­ing and growth of crops from wheat and sugar beet to cour­gettes and leeks, while live­stock farm­ers have found it too wet to put an­i­mals out on grass, the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Union (NFU) said.

Met Of­fice fig­ures showed tem­per­a­tures were be­low av­er­age in March, which be­gan with the bit­terly cold weather and also saw slightly more rain than nor­mal across the UK.

But some places – in­clud­ing De­von, the Mid­lands and some eastern coastal coun­ties – had more than dou­ble the nor­mal amount of rain­fall for the month.

There were lower amounts of sun­shine than av­er­age, with dull con­di­tions over most of Eng­land and Wales.

And the start of April saw more of the same, with colder, greyer and wet­ter con­di­tions than av­er­age in parts of the coun­try.

There is now the prospect of warmer, drier con­di­tions, which could help turn things around, but the NFU said it was too early to tell if the fore­cast good weather would have an im­pact.

NFU deputy pres­i­dent Guy Smith said farm­ers were fac­ing a “com­pressed sea­son”.

“We started March with the var­i­ous vis­its of the Beast from the East, which cre­ated havoc, then we got a very short win­dow of re­prieve, be­fore very wet weather.

“For arable farm­ers who want to get on the land, they’re de­layed in putting seeds in the ground or putting fer­tiliser on their crops to get things grow­ing.

“It’s in the fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests of live­stock farm­ers to get them out on to the grass, but it’s too wet un­der­hoof, which adds costs.”

Last year’s wet har­vest meant there is also a short­age of straw, fur­ther push­ing up costs for live­stock farm­ers.

He said farm­ers had missed out on get­ting their seed beds in good con­di­tion, with time run­ning out to get crops planted, and au­tumn crops not grow­ing as fast as they would have liked.

Spring wheat, spring bar­ley, sugar beet – which farm­ers would nor­mally start plant­ing on March 20 – and pota­toes are all af­fected.

And leeks and veg­eta­bles like cour­gettes will be “start­ing to suf­fer now if they don’t get up and away”.

“I wouldn’t want to start talk­ing about food prices go­ing up, how­ever if this pat­tern of weather doesn’t shift for two weeks, we will be see­ing an ef­fect on har­vest and veg­etable crops,” Mr Smith said.

Other crops such as straw­ber­ries, which are in­creas­ingly grown under cover will be less af­fected, while fruit trees will soon need some sun­shine to blos­som prop­erly and get pol­li­na­tors out on the wing.

And while farm­ers have al­ways had to con­tend with the weather, there are con­cerns that the cli­mate is chang­ing.

“The sea­sons do seem to be in some way out of sync or out of sorts – the weather seems to get in a rut,” Mr Smith added.

Dar­ren Quin­ton

> Farm­ers are fac­ing a ‘com­pressed sea­son’ af­ter a wet March

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