A wet August delayed combining by up to two weeks in parts of the UK, increasing drying costs at a time of depressed crop prices.
After a washout August bank holiday weekend, some farmers in Wales, Scotland, the North East and south-west England have been unable to harvest crops for more than 10 days.
The soggy end to summer is raising fears of a harvest washout, with large areas of wheat still sitting in wet fields waiting to be cut.
And the later harvest is set to cause serious knock-on delays for autumn establishment, with wheat crops looking like they will be harvested two weeks later than normal in some areas.
Over the weekend, farmers took to Twitter and Facebook to post comments and pictures of the delayed harvest.
A few more days of dry weather Lord, to get harvest done – and we promise never to moan about the weather again . . . . until after harvest.
— Sean Sparling (@sasagronomy) August 30, 2015
Jono Dixon (@sunkfarmer), who farms at Sunk Island, east Yorkshire, co-founder of #clubhectare, tweeted: “We are experiencing one of the wettest harvests I can remember.”
A farmer known as Dave (@Dave_724), who farms on the Wiltshire/Sussex border, fumed: “Rain rain rain and more rain I’ve had 150 hours in a month this harvest has been behind a joke with the weather.”
Meanwhile, Jake Freestone (@No1FarmerJake), farm manager at Overbury Farms, Gloucestershire, posted a video on YouTube (see below) on Sunday (31 August) of him resuming harvest after a seven-day break due to the wet weather.
NFU Scotland has been speaking to its members to gather a picture of how farmers were coping.
Ian Sands, NFUS combinable crops chairman, said: “Many regions are running two weeks later with their harvest than this time last year, with yields expected to be lower than normal.
“The adverse weather we have seen in recent months, coupled with the poor returns and high input costs, really threaten the viability of the cereal sector in Scotland.
With such a wet summer and now moving into autumn, many will also be facing additional drying costs in a year when prices are very disappointing.
“At the same time, the arable sector is Scotland has carried virtually all the burden of meeting the ‘greening’ element of the new CAP. Gold plating by the Scottish government around greening rules has impacted on our competitiveness.”
Scotland desperately needed a couple of dry weeks to allow harvest to get back on track, he added.
Writing on his wildlife blog, Peter Thomson, of the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust, said Hampshire was suffering from “monsoon conditions”, with many roads flooded and arable fields “which resemble paddy fields, full of rip, but completely sodden crops”.
“Farmers will be forced to get the combines rolling as soon as a gap in the weather allows, however, this will almost certainly mean that they are collecting grain with a high moisture content, so it will have to be dried once it is back in the farm store.
“This is an unwelcome additional cost to production in a year when market prices are already only offering a meagre return at best.”
The Met Office said a westerly flow from the Atlantic, bringing often cool and rather wet conditions, especially in the North and West, had dominated the weather this August.
Although official figures are still to be calculated, up to 26 August, summer rainfall (June to August) stood at 271mm on average – already 13% above the long-term average.
However, the Met Office said it was “unlikely” that this August would be the wettest on record.
For the next five days, the Met Office has forecast “sunny spells and scattered showers, feeling cool in northerly breeze”.
Met Office spokeswoman Laura Young said: “Temperatures are going to be around about average or slightly below average, but still feeling pleasantly warm in the sunshine.
“There is an area of high pressure building and the weather should improve as the week goes on.”