Volatile UK weather hits grain, potato and orchard crops | News

The extremely changeable weather the UK has experienced this summer has hit the grain, potato and orchard harvest, The Grocer has learned.

Sudden and heavy downpours of rain and hail combined with intense squalls of heat delayed harvest and crop growth, while yields for some foods were revised down.

According to the Met Office, July was the fifth warmest on record, but also one of the wettest compared to the 30-year average for parts of the South East, South West, Midlands and Yorkshire ( see graph below).

These conditions compounded the adverse effects felt by crops after the coldest April on record and abnormally cold weather in May.

For grain crops, weather variability has “caused significant problems in some areas,” the NFU said. He also warned that maintaining these conditions would reduce the quality of crops.

“For a lot of areas, they just haven’t had a lot of clear, dry days in a row to harvest, so things got a little off with the harvest,” explained Anthony Hopkins, chief combinable crop adviser. of the NFU.

“Where there have been harvests, the grain has often had to be dried out because the best weather hasn’t lasted long enough to bring moisture levels back to where they should be,” he said.

“The problems will get worse if the unstable weather continues, as it will start to impact grain quality if it goes on too long, especially for crops like milling wheat.”

Hopkins added that this year’s harvest would still be late compared to an average year, as the cold spring had delayed ripening.

The latest AHDB statistics from August 12 put the winter barley crop at 88% harvested, rapeseed at 61% and winter wheat at 2%. This meant barley crop progress was on par with the AHDB five-year average, while the OSR and wheat crops lagged far behind.

Met Office July 2021 rainfall map

While the AHDB’s senior grains and oilseeds analyst James Webster said it was too early to tell if this had caused quality problems for wheat, he warned that crop estimates tighter conditions among major exporters like Canada meant that prices would remain high for the foreseeable future.

“If the weather continues to be unfavorable and we get confirmation of a tightening in UK yields, we could well see price support in this window in the short to medium term,” he said.

And it was a similar outlook for potatoes. While the NFU said it was too early to comment on overall progress, McCain said potatoes produced by its UK growers were “currently slightly behind schedule”.

Despite this, the processor said he remained “optimistic” for the coming season as the crops had “better potential than in recent years” when extreme rains and drought affected both quality and yields.

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The picture was less rosy for cherry growers, who were forced to revise their harvest estimates down by 31% due to extremely wet July weather in the southeast.

Trade body Love Fresh Cherries originally forecast a harvest of 5,500 tonnes, having managed to avoid frost damage in the spring. But after the July storms, that figure was reduced to 4,200 tonnes.

“While we certainly experienced extraordinary and difficult weather conditions resulting in a slightly reduced harvest towards the end of our picking window in August, this had no impact on fruit quality,” said Matt Hancock, gatekeeper. lyrics by Love Fresh Cherries.

It comes after apple growers warned last week that there would be a ‘lack’ of early-flowering varieties like cox and bramley due to damage from spring frosts. Trade body British Apples and Pears said it could not provide a forecast for the remainder of this year’s harvest due to volatile weather conditions.

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