Hail and torrential rain wreaked havoc on crops as a storm cut a swathe across four counties of England – just before they were due to be harvested.

Oilseed rape, wheat and winter barley crops bore the brunt of the weather as it hit Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire on Saturday (19 July).

“Saturday evening looked like it was going to lovely – we were thinking of going to mow some haylage,” said Julian Price, who farms 160ha at Poundon, Buckinghamshire.

“But then we had golf-ball sized hail and about 10mm of rain in less than 10 minutes.”

Mr Price told Farmers Weekly the hailstorm had destroyed 70% of his oilseed rape crop. Other farmers in the area were similarly affected, he said.

See also: Get the latest weather forecast for your area

The storm was about five miles wide, said Mr Price. It looked like something out of an American TV series about extreme weather, he added.

More than 600ha of crops are believed to have been destroyed on farms in the surrounding area.

“I’ve heard stories but I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Mr Price. “It came out of nowhere – it’s frightening to see the damage it caused. It has knocked all the grains out of the wheat ears.”

The impact on barley was different but still devastating, said Mr Price.

“It hasn’t knocked the barley out of its ear, but it has broken 20-30% of the ears off – bashing off the weaker bits.”

Joseph Hodges, who farms on the border of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, said in some fields 70-80% of his unharvested rape was now on the floor.

“My advice to anybody with oilseed rape still in the field is to get it harvested asap,” he wrote on the social media website Twitter.

One of the first farmers to be hit by the storm was Piers Cowling, who manages 800ha on the Ridgeway, near Lambourn, Berkshire.

“Eleven months’ work destroyed in 10 minutes,” he tweeted.