Farmers pray for sunshine

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FARMERS across Fenland are hoping for dry weather so they can harvest crops.

They are already predicting a later than usual harvest with all crops at least two weeks behind their usual growth.

There is also concerns that some crops will be poorer than usual in quality pushing prices up and that hay prices could be sky high come winter unless the rainy spell ends soon.

Chatteris-based George Munns - famous for rapeseed oil - said: “The situation is beginning to get critical for the combinable crops. The time for spraying to keep diseases down has past as most of the crops are now in the ripening stage and the use of most chemicals is banned.”

He said they are waiting to harvest their lucrative oil seed rape and are praying for a decent dry spell to ensure other combinable crops such as wheat have a chance to build up the sugar and starch content needed.

“Crops need the sunshine to ripen and to be honest farmers would much rather have a dry season than a wet one like this as the yields might be down but the quality is good. In a year like this the quality is poor and the yield is also down,” said Mr Munns.

James German, chairman of March National Farmers Union branch, agreed the quality of corn is likely to be down as the never ending summer rain has led to a rise in disease and also the starch content has been affected.

Haymaking has been a major headache for all farmers because the ground needs to be dry and the weather needs to also remain dry while the grass is cut and baled.

John Hoyles, who farms at Newton, said potato crops are suffering with ‘practically every field’ being hit by disease.

He said crops on a 10-day spraying rota are now having to be done weekly. He can’t recall a wetter year than this and pointed out it has not stopped raining since Anglian Water introduced a hosepipe ban in April - it has since been lifted.

“It’s the wettest hosepipe ban I’ve ever known. I can never remember a year like this, we are all praying for some dry, warm weather. But farmers are used to the trials and tribulations caused by the weather,” he said.

West-Walton-based fruit grower John Portass said there are plenty of apples on the trees in his orchards, but they are smaller than usual. He said sunshine is urgently needed to allow the fruit to grow and become plumper.

Harvesting is likely to be at least a fortnight later than usual because of the later flowering of the blossom.

He also said it had been a difficult year in terms of disease and that the excessive rainfall was making it difficult to get in the orchards to spray.

Livestock farmer Charles Smart, from Fridaybridge, agreed it was a difficult year but said: “It is not a disaster yet - there is still sometime to go before the season is over.”