Weather shifts to north-south divide

A north-south divide in the weather was expected to bring contrasting challenges to farmers across the UK this week.

The Environment Agency said rain forecast in the North West would be welcome as surface water and bore holes were “very low”.

But if dry conditions continued, formal restrictions on water abstractions could be introduced on the River Wye in Wales and the Crossens catchment in the North West, the agency said.

The agency has been writing to abstraction licence holders in these areas, including farmers, to ask them to conserve water and check their licence conditions, particularly those relating to low river flows.

There was also a risk of formal restrictions on spray irrigators later in the summer if the dry conditions continued.

In Cumbria United Utilities has been exploring the prospect of drought permits rather than restricting farmers through drought orders.

However in south and east England, the Met Office said groundwater was “holding up well”, although issues with soil moisture meant crops and grass were not growing well.

Met Office forecaster John Hammond said sunshine and showers were forecast for most regions of the UK this weekend.

Temperatures were expected to remain above average for this time of year, with highs in the mid-20s forecast for southern England.

Next week, the country could see a traditional north/south weather divide, added Mr Hammond.

“Rain will move from the west towards north-west England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But in southern and eastern regions of England drier conditions will prevail.”

Cambridgeshire grower Richard Blackhurst said an inch of rain which fell at the beginning of June on his farm in Wistow saved his wheat crops.

“The Solstice is hanging on, but the Gallant wheat is going off now. Still, I don’t predict a big reduction in yield,” he said.

“We’re still expecting 9t/ha plus and we’ll be looking to harvest it in August.”

But he added that his wheat straw was “quite desperate” and fetching just £45/t.

Meanwhile, the NFU said dairy farmers were struggling to keep cows hydrated and maintain milk production following months of dry, hot weather.

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