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‘Wake-up call’ as East Anglian vegetable crop yields and quality hit by heatwave

PUBLISHED: 14:05 03 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:32 03 August 2018

The carrot crop, parts of which were severely hit by the heatwave, despite efforts to keep it sufficiently irrigated during the 2018 heatwave at James Foskett Farms at Bromeswell Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

The carrot crop, parts of which were severely hit by the heatwave, despite efforts to keep it sufficiently irrigated during the 2018 heatwave at James Foskett Farms at Bromeswell Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

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East Anglian farmers have revealed the ‘extremely challenging’ growing conditions they have been battling this season, with crop yields and quality hit by an unprecedented series of weather events.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts visits the depleted reservoir at James Foskett Farms at Bromeswell Picture: SARAH CHAMBERSNFU vice president Stuart Roberts visits the depleted reservoir at James Foskett Farms at Bromeswell Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Stuart Roberts spent a day visiting James Foskett Farms in Bromeswell near Woodbridge and Mann Potatoes at Iken, near Snape, both on the Suffolk coast, to see how the rain-starved region’s farmers had been coping with the summer heatwave, and saw for himself how vegetable growers and livestock farmers have been affected.

Farmer James Foskett took him to a depleted farm reservoir, just 2ft deep in water where normally it was at 14ft. He explained how, until thunderstorms broke at the end of July, bringing some much-welcomed respite, it had been completely drained as he and his team worked frantically to ensure vegetable crops on the farm, which grows potatoes, onions, organic crops, sugarbeet, carrots, organic beetroot and cereals, were irrigated.

But despite their efforts, the exceptionally high temperatures, which soared above 30C, took their toll on vegetable crops, with some growing areas suffering more severely than others. He explained how parts of his carrot crop had been badly affected.

Richard Mann, and son, Peter, showed how on their mixed farm at Iken, which also grows and keeps an organic pedigree Lincoln Red cattle herd, the heatwave was also taking its toll on the livestock operation, particularly in relation to production of organic fodder, severely hit by the parched conditions.

Hertfordshire-based Mr Roberts, who was in east Suffolk with NFU national water resources expert Paul Hammett, met a small group of farmers, officials from the Environment Agency and Essex and Suffolk Water and members of the East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group (ESWAG), and said conditions were “extremely challenging. “This is a major wake up call for everyone. We have been dealing with a totally unprecedented spell of weather but the question is whether such heatwaves will become more common in the future,” he said. “I think that’s quite possible and we’re looking to government to help and support us in becoming more resilient to extreme weather events.”

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