Farmers across the UK are facing major crop failures because of recent very dry weather and the possibility of watering bans in the crucial pre-harvest months of August and September.

Experts are so concerned about the aftermath of last week’s record-breaking heatwave that a meeting of the National Drought Group, made up of government departments and affected groups, has been brought forward from October to this week to discuss the crisis.

Root vegetables such as potatoes are under particular threat, and growers with supermarket contracts could find themselves in serious financial difficulty if their crop yields fall due to the dry conditions.

Soft fruit growers also fear lower yields and smaller strawberries and raspberries because of the hot, dry weather, which also affects the shelf life of the fruit. As one producer pointed out, the challenge with soft fruit in very hot weather is both the physical picking of it and the fact that it is harder to cool it quickly enough.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is asking government agencies to prepare for the rapid introduction of derogations to rules governing farmed environment schemes, should weather conditions thwart the delivery of agreed management prescriptions.

In addition, the farming body is looking at longer-term solutions to drought, such as helping farmers to adopt on-farm drought risk management and contingency planning, like more efficient water use, rainwater harvesting, separating potable and non-potable water use, locating and repairing leaking pipes.

As a spokeswoman for the NFU commented, there is no time to waste, adding that the situation with water is very, very serious for growers, as “there are implications for costs and crop viability.”

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Posted in Agriculture, Blog.