Monday, September 16, 2019

Lack of water ‘more challenging’ than last year

June 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Low average rainfall is triggering farmers and growers to adopt water savvy techniques earlier in the year amid increasing concerns of another agricultural drought hit.

Irrigation prospects have been downgraded from moderate to poor in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire – increasing the likelihood of abstraction restrictions. Other areas are also facing challenges with much of England in a weaker position than 2018.

Cumulative rainfall totals for April ranged from 19% of the monthly long term average in the east to 86% in south-west England, with all regions apart from south-west receiving less than half the usual amount of rain.

As Midland Farmer went to press, the Met Office forecast for three months of May, June and July as a whole suggested similar chances of above and below average precipitation. On balance, however, drier-than-average conditions are marginally more likely.

Profitable crops

Lincolnshire farmer and Nene Potatoes chairman David Hoyles grows root crops, peas and cereals. Last year, he focused irrigation on the most profitable crops first. Potatoes and beetroot yields turned out well. But unirrigated sugar beet yielded almost 25% less in 2017.

“This year is looking like a bigger challenge than last, because our reservoir is currently at 30%,” he said. “We’re already irrigating, but to help us manage and target our water use we’ve invested in more soil moisture probes, we’re also getting out with a spade to check ground conditions.”

Mr Hoyles said he was looking at new ways of achieving better crop nutrition. He is trialling bio-stimulants following ADAS guidance and sampling crops as he goes. “The good thing is, we have time to prepare and we’re acting early to make sure we’re better protected.”

Profit and loss

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is urging growers to consider all options to place them in a stronger position. Savvy techniques will be needed to help businesses get more from the water they have in the worst affected areas, it says.

AHDB water resources scientist Nicola Dunn said: “With time to prepare, we’d encourage farmers and growers to develop contingency plans and consider options, which could make the difference between a profit or loss situation this summer.”

For more information about weather tools to help farmers, visit ahdb.org.uk/weather.

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