Hurricane Bertha has flattened crops and put the cereals harvest on hold for at least a week in many areas of Scotland.
Almost a month’s rainfall fell in 12 hours on Sunday (10 August)in some parts of the north-east and gusts of 50mph swept through Aberdeenshire, levelling fields of oats, wheat and spring barley and leaving the ground waterlogged and impassable.
Until the storm hit at the weekend, Scottish farmers had been celebrating a harvest that was two to three weeks earlier than usual, with almost all winter barley and 85% of oilseed rape harvested. The spring barley crop is also ripe and many producers were preparing to start combining this week.
However, NFU Scotland’s cereals committee chairman Andrew Moir, who farms near Laurencekirk, south of Aberdeen, said there was very little chance of machinery getting into fields in his area anytime soon.
“The next week looks like a complete write-off,” he said. “In my immediate area, crops of oats that were standing and looking good are now down.”
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency still has more than 20 flood warnings in place, covering Aberdeenshire, Speyside, Moray, Caithness and Sutherland, and Tayside. And the forecast is for more wet weather.
In the Highlands, the 85-member Highland Grain co-operative had just begun its malting barley harvest. Co-op manager Simon Barry said 2,000t had been harvested at the end of last week but that comprised just 5% of the annual crop.
“There has undoubtedly been damage over the weekend,” he said. “And reports suggest the situation is worst in the east. There are crops down in Easter Ross, especially the Optic variety, but that tends to go down at the drop of a hat anyway. It’s a worry and more rain is forecast.”
In the north-east, Aberdeen Grain sales manager Gordon Booth said that spring barley was about to come on stream. “It’s ready for the combine now,” he said. “But I’m looking out of the window and seeing fields of oats that have fallen over in the past 24 hours. Wheat has gone the same way. We can only keep our fingers crossed that the weather won’t drag on and result in quality issues with the malting barley crop.”