Jacob Anthony: Poor forecasts bring a flood of frustration

I don’t want to sound like a stereotypical moaning farmer, but how did we manage to put a man on the moon more than 50 years ago, yet still can’t guarantee a correct weather forecast?

It’s been a very frustrating summer for a number of reasons. In terms of the weather, though, we here have been caught out several times with grass on the floor receiving an unforecast wash. This has cost us a significant amount of money.

Even by Welsh weather standards, the unpredictability of this past summer has been ludicrous. I guess I should remember it is 2020, after all, and nothing this year has been straightforward.

See also: Jacob Anthony – wool should be a premium product

Is there any other industry that relies so heavily on that five-minute snippet at the end of the news? Some might even say the main reason the farming fraternity tune into Countryfile is exclusively for the seven-day forecast.

With many smartphone apps giving us hour-by-hour predictions of the weather, most people would think that it is easy for us to plan our workload for the days ahead. Well, in theory it should be, but unfortunately these are also very inaccurate.

Unreliable forecasts at harvest time in the UK can cost the industry a phenomenal amount of money, as well as causing disruption to businesses and labour.

Many crops such as hay/haylage are often reliant on being cut and left to have a period of days drying. If this process goes wrong due to a sudden change in the weather, it can mean a loss in quality to what is ultimately a perishable crop – something we have encountered ourselves this season.

In February, the government announced that it had confirmed investment of up to £1.2bn in the latest technology, promising “the world’s most powerful weather and climate supercomputer”.

Even with everything else going on in the country at this unprecedented time, the government intends to honour its promise of seeing through this investment and having it in place by 2022.

This new supercomputer will be managed by the Met Office and will ensure more sophisticated rainfall predictions. The socio-economic benefits to the UK will be huge, amounting to billions of pounds through more efficient and effective decision-making.

For the farming industry in particular, more accurate information to allow us to plan ahead will be gratefully received. 

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