Drought fears return after driest February in 30 years

Provisional figures from the Met Office show England recorded its driest February in 30 years, prompting fears in agriculture of another year of drought.

Following a wet January, which led to flooding in many parts of the country, rainfall was in short supply in February.

England had its eighth driest February since 1836, and its driest since 1993, with on average just 15.3mm of rain falling in the month

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Bedfordshire, Greater London and Essex all recorded figures to put the month in their respective top five driest Februarys on record. Essex had the least amount of rainfall with 3.5mm falling in the month, just 8% of its average.

Essex grower Guy Smith, whose farm in St Osyth is officially recognised as the driest farm in the UK, had just 2mm of rainfall in February.

Mr Smith said following some wet months, the farm was now “very dry”, but he plans to use it to his benefit for early drilling of spring crops.

“The old farming adage says that a peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom – the thinking being a chance to get spring crops drilled early as beneficial to yield.”

Somerset beef and arable farmer James Winslade said he was working in fields and trying to salvage crops after his farm in Moorland, near Bridgwater, suffered widespread flooding in January.

He said: “It’s a bit early to talk about drought, but if it’s cold and wet around the end of March, that could have an impact on turning out cattle and forage is going to be in short supply.

“There are still some areas of the country that have not come out of official drought status yet from last summer.

“If we go into another dry spring and summer, there’s going to be problems, not only for farming but for reservoirs and people’s drinking water.”

Dry Britain

The dry theme in February was mirrored across much of the UK.

Wales had 26.2mm of rain (22% of average) and Northern Ireland 31.3mm (34% of average). Scotland was still dry, though not to the same extent as further south, with 97mm of rain (69% of average).

The Environment Agency said water companies and its partners are taking action to ensure water resources are in the best possible position both for the summer and for future droughts.

The Met Office said most of the UK is likely to stay dry with some sunshine next week, although there is a risk of wintry showers across northern and eastern areas, possibly turning to snow.

Further dry weather is forecast for the last two weeks of March and there is the possibility of some rain in some areas.

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