Why the brown fields around Market Harborough are bad news for farmers

Local farmer Ollie Lee feeding cattle during the nine week drought in the Harborough area.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180731-152907005
Local farmer Ollie Lee feeding cattle during the nine week drought in the Harborough area.'PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-180731-152907005

You just have to look at the countryside to see how Harborough’s hottest, driest spell for 42 years has hit local farms.

One effect is immediately obvious – the brown colour of the fields. There’s hardly any green grass.

“The whole landscape has just died” says Harborough farmer and county NFU Chairman Ollie Lee.

“That means we, along with a lot of other people, are already having to use our winter forage – silage and hay – to feed sheep and cattle.

“The knock-on effect of that could last for at least six months.”

The drought – the worst since 1976 – has also affected yields of winter-planted crops, and “dramatically” affected spring-planted ones.

“And the eight millimetres of drizzle we got at the weekend in Slawston isn’t nearly enough” said Ollie.

“Remember, we’ve had nine weeks without any rain in Harborough.

“It’s been an unbelievably long, dry spell, coupled with the heat.

“The district is still pretty desperate for decent rain you can measure.

“And of course the problem this year is that the dry conditions apply across Britain, from Cornwall to Scotland.”

Nationally, Jack Ward, CEO of British Growers, said the recent extreme weather - a cold, wet winter and spring followed by a hot, dry summer had been a “nightmare scenario” for farmers.

Mr Ward told i newspaper: “Snow and ice delayed planting, and the heatwave has meant temperatures have been much higher than usual.

“Volumes are down for all vegetables, but the veg still in the ground is the worst affected.

“ We are seeing a 20-25 per cent lower yield. It’s unprecedented.”

Growers are predicting eventual price rises in the shops for vegetables in shorter supply, including onions, brassicas, carrots, potatoes and peas.