Drilling plans in chaos after floods

Heavy rain and gale force winds have thrown autumn drilling plans into chaos for farmers, with many still unable to finish harvest.

Fierce 60mph winds and floods were battering farmers in northern England and Scotland, with some areas reporting a fortnight’s rain in a day.

The Environment Agency has issued 151 flood alerts and more than 71 warnings across England and Wales, with a further eight in Scotland.

The Met Office has warned people to expect another 20-40mm rain in the next 24 hours, which will leave ground heavily saturated.

Peter Robson, a mixed farmer at Stoney Flat Farm, in Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, said the floods were the worst he had known in his region.

“We have had 3.45in (86mm) of rainfall since Sunday night. The fields are flooded and it’s flooded in the farmyard too,” he said.

“There is widespread flooding on newly sown land that now looks terrible. We have finished harvest and the barley and oilseed rape is drilled.

“We were hoping to drill the wheat this week, but at the moment it’s not looking likely at all and we’re looking at a serious delay. It’s desperate. The livestock is unsettled and the cows are wandering around. They don’t know what to do.”

In Morpeth, Northumberland, a farmer was caught out by the floods after leaving his Claas 118 combine in a field.

Dramatic images of the stranded combine were filmed above from a helicopter, with bales of straw rising out of the water.

Homes in Morpeth have been evacuated as the heavy rain and severe winds persist, while more than 100 vehicles remain trapped on a 30-mile stretch of the A1 in North Yorkshire.

The north-east and north-west of England and the Scottish Borders were some of the six regions that remained under an Amber weather warning. There were also 17 less-severe yellow warnings in place.

David Hall, who farms at Chipchase Farm, Northumberland, said his ground has been saturated since 1 April.

“We’ve never seen the ground as wet,” he said. “It’s completely saturated so we can’t get on to the land with the plough. If things don’t improve in the next three weeks then it won’t be worth sowing anything.”

“Fortunately the last of the cereals were cut on Wednesday (19 September) and we have just 24ha (60 acres) of spring rape left to cut,” he added.

David White, a farming consultant for Strutt & Parker, based in Morpeth, Northumberland, works with dozens of farmers across the county.

He said the wet weather was preventing farmers completing harvest and there were many fields of beans and spring oilseed rape still to be cut.

“As you go further north into Northumberland, there are still some fields of wheat yet to be cut,” he added. “It was relatively wet in August and this rain isn’t helping farmers complete harvest.”

Mr White blamed a gloomy July for this year’s poor crop yields. He said the month saw just 98 hours of sunshine compared with 270 last year.

The heavy rain is the result of an area of low pressure which has moved north across the country from the Bay of Biscay and is now off the north-east coast, according to Met Office forecasters.

Those in the south of England got the worst of the weather on Sunday (23 September) with 30-50mm rain, while on Monday (24 September) the equivalent of a month’s rainfall in 24 hours and wind speeds of 70mph.

The Met Office has urged people to keep up to date with weather forecast and be prepared for flooding in their area.


Philip Case on G+

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