Following one of the wettest winters on record, many farms have not seen significant rainfall for more than a month, prompting concerns about drought conditions.
Essex grower Guy Smith said his farm in St Osyth, near Clacton, which had once held the Guinness World Record for the driest place in Britain, had received 2mm of rainfall on Sunday (12 April).
A distinct hint of ‘petrichor’ in the air tonight as 2mm of rain gives us our wettest day for five weeks. But the usual weather angst is dwarfed by something more serious than lack of rain. pic.twitter.com/fxjtRcuDQq
— Guy Smith (@essexpeasant) April 12, 2020
Former NFU deputy president Mr Smith said it was his farm’s wettest day in more than five weeks. Other farmers responded to his tweet, saying he was lucky to have had any rain at all.
After the wet autumn scuppered cereal drilling plans for hundreds of farms, large swathes of arable land were drilled with spring crops in February and March.
For many, the spring crops have been drilled into seed-beds described as “like concrete”, with barely enough moisture to germinate the seeds.
There does appear to be a split across the country, with farmers in western areas on heavy land less affected than those in eastern counties on light land.
Praying for rain
But Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer Focus writer David Butler, who farms just south of Marlborough, in Wiltshire, is among many now praying for rain.
Mr Butler has posted a photo of a parched field of emerging spring barley on his Twitter page, saying: “We will need some wet stuff in the medium term, or we will be in all sorts of trouble.”
Spring Barley is up in rows but will need some wet stuff in the medium term or will be in all sorts of trouble. ??? pic.twitter.com/GbUWepGrH0
— ????? ?????? (@DavidButler34) April 12, 2020
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency had 21 flood alerts in place across central and southern England on Tuesday (14 April) due to groundwater flooding as the chalk aquifers “balance out” from the winter.
The weather forecast does, however, offer some hope for rain-starved fields. From Thursday to Saturday, the Met Office outlook is some patchy light rain in the North and an increasing risk rain and showers in the South.