East Anglia needs 'extra month's rain' to help farmers

East Anglia will need the equivalent of an extra month's rainfall over the next three months to help farmers tackle the effects of drought, a university professor has said.

Prof Kevin Hiscock of the environmental sciences department at the University of East Anglia said the region needed 200mm (7.87in) of rain by March.

He said average monthly rainfall in the East of England was 50mm (1.97in).

Much of the region is still in drought, according to the Environment Agency.

It said Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and west Norfolk are still suffering from depleted water resources, particularly groundwater, due to a lack of rainfall.

Continuing drought

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) declared drought in the area in June following the driest spring on record.

Prof Hiscock said "soil moisture deficit" in the East was currently about 100mm (3.94in), which he believed had not been the case since about 1978.

"If we continue with this dry weather for the next few weeks then next spring we're going to have a deficit to begin the season with," he said.

"At the moment the water levels in the chalk aquifer [permeable rock] in parts of eastern and southern England are very depressed."

Prof Hiscock put the continued lack of rainfall in the East down to a "blocking high pressure" area that extends from the continent westwards, pushing any rainbelts further north.

The Environment Agency previously said households would not be affected by the continuing drought.

But the lack of rainfall has greatly depleted many farmers' crops in the region.

John Carrick from Castle Farm at Swanton Morley, Norfolk, said in the last harvest he lost about £100 per acre of arable crop due to the lack of rain, compared to previous years.

Prof Hiscock urged farmers to capture any high rainfall over the winter and store it for next season.

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