Growers were left counting the cost of damaged crops after torrential rain and flooding hit many parts of the UK. The West Midlands was one of the worst areas, with some growers reporting over 130mm rain.

Richard Beldam near Evesham was one of those affected, having lost 8ha (20 acres) of winter wheat when the River Avon burst its banks. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate, a lot of people are far worse off,” he said on Monday (23 July). Apart from the area directly affected by flooding and about 5% which had lodged, the bulk of his 800ha (2000 acres) of wheat looked “pretty good”, but weather had to improve now to save what quality remained, he said.

Flooded potato field_fwi

Mr Beldam was more concerned about his 400ha (1000 acres) of oilseed rape, which was all ready to cut. “We did about 150 acres last Wednesday/Thursday, but can’t move because of the ground conditions. It will be much more vulnerable now.”

Nick Oakhill of Glencore estimated 15-20% of oilseed rape and winter barley had been cut by the start of this week, compared with nearer 50% normally. Quality had been good until now, although he feared that could change as many crops were ripe and would soon deteriorate. Yields were very mixed, with rape at 2-6t/ha and barley 3-8t/ha, he noted.

“I don’t think wheat will have come to a great deal of harm yet. Some has lodged, but what’s standing looks OK.”

A similar view was shared by the NFU’s Guy Gagen. “There will be less quality wheat about, but it’s too early to say it’s gone already. One silver lining is that mycotoxin risk is still relatively low according to HGCA monitor sites.”

Nottinghamshire farmer and NFU combinable crops board member Peter Gadd called for processors and traders to help growers by relaxing moisture values from 15% to 16% on all existing cereal contracts and for at least the next three months’ trading (see Talking Point, p33). “If we are to rescue the crop in as good a condition as the whole industry would like, then maybe it is time processors and traders help too.” He also thought oilseed contracts moisture values could be relaxed to 10% from 9%.

The wet weather had also created significant challenges for livestock feed and bedding this season and Mr Gagen advised growers to consult a straw merchant before chopping straw.

Combinable crops weren’t the only ones affected. AICC agronomist Pat Turnbull said some sugar beet in Norfolk was really struggling. “One or two fields have gone backwards.

“Other light land crops look very well, but if we haven’t had the sun, we’ve got to question how much sugar they’ll put on.”


DAMAGE LIMITATION
  • Significant crop losses in West Midlands & Wales due to flooding
  • Potatoes badly affected
  • Concerns for post-harvest storage
  • Wheat quality OK so far
  • Scope to relax moisture contents on contracts?


A SOGGY STORY FOR SPUDS
  • Potato crops have been especially hard hit by the wet weather and the British Potato Council’s Rob Burrow expected significantly higher losses due to waterlogging, blight and storage diseases. “I expect there will be a lot higher wastage due to greening, slugs, growth cracking and post-harvest storability.”

    Herefordshire grower and contractor Russell Price said all of his crops had blight. “We’ve tried to keep spray intervals to every six days, but it’s been so wet we can’t keep on top of programmes.

    “Fungicide costs are likely to be more than double this year and we’re still 3-4 weeks away from burning crops off.”

    Mr Price, who contract farms around 485ha (1200 acres) alongside his own 160ha (400 acres) of potatoes, said 100 acres were a complete write-off due to either flooding or blight. “One customer thinks he’s lost 50% and another said up to 250 acres has been lost. We’ve no insurance, so there is a feeling of helplessness.”

    More worryingly, he said it was too early to tell what damage the rain had caused to crops that may look OK on the surface. “We won’t see the true effect until harvest. I’m sure we’ll find tuber blight and wet rot.”