Farmers 'concerned' about crops after driest winter in 20 years

Tractor Image copyright Getty Images

Farmers are "increasingly concerned" about fruit and vegetable crops after the driest winter in 20 years.

Most rivers across England have been at lower levels than usual, and less than half the average amount of rain fell in the UK in April.

Some rivers have run dry in Cumbria, with reservoir levels in Cornwall dwindling.

BBC weather said April had been especially dry, seeing only 47% of the average rainfall across the UK.

However, some wetter weather is expected this weekend.

'Notably low' levels

National Farmers' Union vice president Guy Smith said some farmers, especially those in the south and east, had reported as low as 10% of the expected rainfall for March and April.

"While decent rains in May and June will put many crops back on track, some crops like spring barley have clearly already lost their full potential," he said.

"Some farmers and growers are looking at the 'changeable' forecast for the end of this week hoping it brings much needed rain.

"We are growing increasingly concerned about the fruit and vegetable sector, but reservoirs are full and abstracted water sources are still available, albeit at lower that normal levels."

Image copyright Met Office

The Environment Agency said it advised everyone to use water wisely - "especially during a period of dry weather" - noting that some reservoirs are also lower than normal for the time of year.

Tim Legg, a climate scientist at the National Climate Information Centre, said for the UK as a whole, it was the driest October to March since the winter of 1995-96.

Daily river flows at all but six of the Environment Agency's indicator sites in England were either below normal or "notably low" for the week to 2 May.

Image copyright Environment Agency

John West, forecaster at BBC Weather, said the driest area in April across the UK had been Edinburgh, with 7% of its average rainfall.

"That was very dry, with other southern counties including Kent and Sussex also quite dry, with around 20% of what we would expect for April," he said. "We have seen the dry spell continue into May, and it will do until this weekend, when we will see a bit more rain spreading across the south from the continent."

He said a large amount of high pressure in April was behind the dry spell.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Only 47% of the average UK rainfall was seen in April - leading to many taking advantage of the conditions

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "We always advise that everyone uses water wisely - especially during a period of dry weather - and to follow the advice of their water company should water saving measures be required.

"The Environment Agency, water companies, businesses and farmers are working together to minimise any potential impacts to people and the environment should the dry weather continue."

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