Suffolk: Bertha sparks harvest fears

Harvest in Suffolk and Essex Harvest in Suffolk and Essex

Matt Gaw matt.gaw@archant.co.uk
Saturday, August 9, 2014
10:39 AM

The potential arrival of heavy rain and strong winds could hamper Suffolk’s harvest, farming leaders have said.

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Although meteorologists have said Saturday will be a mixture of sunshine and blustery showers there’s a risk of further heavy rain and strong winds on Sunday if the remains of Hurricane Bertha develop into a deep Atlantic low pressure system and heads towards the UK.

Robert Baker, of Crossways Farm, Elmswell, said he was watching weather forecasts with concern, but added he was thankful that the recent warm, dry spell meant many farmers had already harvested a significant amount of crops.

“It’s going very well, we’re probably 90% through our harvest which is great. We’ve just got a bit of wheat and spring barley left and then we’re finished. It’s been a very good run. We’re 10 days earlier than usual.”

Mr Baker said: “If we get the high winds and heavy rain and the hail it will cause some problems.

“I would be particularly worried for the spring barley, but at the moment, they (forecasters) are undecided about how bad it is going to be.

“But obviously the situation we’re in now is a lot better than if we had got 100% of the harvest sitting out there.”

Brian Finnerty, of the National Farmers Union, said: “We can say in general terms that the harvest has been progressing well in really good weather conditions. People have made good progress – some farmers have had their earliest harvest in recent memory.

“But the concern would be if you get hail storms and freak weather conditions that could cause damage to crops.

“Some of the farmers I have been speaking to had been working really long hours and were actually welcoming a bit of a downpour as it gave them a bit of a respite.

“Also people are starting to prepare ground and putting new crops in and some rain is useful to start things going.”

The Met Office said yesterday that the stormy weather system was hard to predict. A spokesman added: “The remains of Hurricane Bertha, over the western side of the Atlantic on Thursday morning, will come steadily towards the UK. The transition from a tropical to an extra-tropical feature is a particularly hard one to forecast with confidence, and computer models continue to differ in the location and intensity of the resulting depression, which is expected to pass over, or close to, the UK from early on Sunday.

“There is the potential for widespread rainfall totals of more than 50mm and coastal gusts of over 60mph, along with large waves. However, the system may pass harmlessly to the south of the country... and the public are advised to keep up to date with warnings.”

But Jim Bacon, from East Anglian-based Weatherquest, said it was unlikely the tail-end of the hurricane would affect the region, with heavy showers most likely tomorrow.

He said: “This has long since been a threat; we’re not even naming it on the charts. It’s a load coming across the Atlantic with warm moist air.

“We’re just treating it like an area of low pressure with very warm moist air.

“Then there’s where the track takes it. At the moment the track will take the heaviest rain to the north and west of us and in the east we’ll get a period of rain.”

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