Drought takes its toll on new season’s crops

Growers in parts of Shropshire were desperately irrigating oilseed rape this week as continued dry weather increased concerns of a looming crop disaster.

AICC agronomist Bryce Rham said a 20-mile radius around Shrewsbury had seen hardly any rainfall for the past two months.

“We desperately need an inch of rain to get crops growing, but even then there’s no moisture underneath,” he said.

“The wind has stripped whatever moisture there was off and many fields are still brown.”

His clients had decided to leave the rape in the ground and drill a spring crop if it fails. Sandy Walker from Telford drilled his oilseed rape eight weeks ago, but by Tuesday (18 October), it still had not chitted.

“We’re trying to irrigate now. It’s working, but strong winds are making it difficult,” he said.

He is waiting until March to see if the crop is a success. If it fails, he will tear it up and replace it with a spring crop.

His wheat crops were extremely variable from field to field – some have emerged whereas large parts of fields were still brown.

“We have done all the work, but we have got no crop to show for it. That’s what’s most disheartening,” he said.

Livestock farmer Jonathan Cornes, from Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury, said around one-third of his 400ha of stubble turnips grown on farm has failed and two-thirds were “looking poor”.

“We normally feed 10,000 sheep on that acreage, but this year we’ll be lucky to feed 3,000.”

Shrewsbury contract farmer John Edwards added dust storms were causing major problems. “Every time you get a drop of rain the wind is up straightaway and it dries out what bit of moisture you’ve got.”

Spraying was at a standstill as a result, he added. “I’ve done hardly anything – the agronomist’s spray sheets are building up day by day.”

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