Harvest 2018: Norfolk peas are 'cooking in their pods' during the heatwave, say concerned farmers
PUBLISHED: 16:06 25 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:29 25 July 2018
Norfolk's pea growers are racing against time to harvest this year's crop as the summer heatwave leaves "peas cooking in their pods".
Aylsham Growers is a co-operative producing 6,000 acres of vining peas across the county, with four harvesters working all hours of the day and night to gather the crop before it deteriorates further in the dry, sweltering conditions.
General manager Russell Corfield said: “Some of the crop we are into at the moment has had no natural rainfall whatsoever for the whole time they have been growing. We have got crops drying off in front of our eyes and starting to go yellow.
“There is going to be a huge impact on yield. Instead of six, seven, eight, pods per plant we are looking at three or four. And instead of eight or nine peas in a pod, it is only three, four or five if they have not had any irrigation.
“The crops are hugely stressed, and it is a race against time for us to get them harvested and into the freezer.
“Anything over 30 degrees is doing huge damage to the crop. We put a thermometer in the ground, and even the ground temperature was 28 degrees. It has been basically cooking the peas in their pod.
“It does not matter whether you are in Norfolk or Scotland, every single grower in Great Britain has got the same issue.
“I have never seen anything like it. It is like working in a dustbowl.
“We are working flat out and all my harvesters usually run wet, but this year we are going through air filters like we are driving a combine. I cannot remember the last time we had to clean out air filters, and now we are doing it twice or three times a day, because there is so much dust going into them.”
Mr Corfield said crops planted earlier in the season had not suffered as much as later-drilled peas which now need to be irrigated to get them through to harvest – but limited water supplies may need to be redirected to high-value crops like potatoes and onions.
“All my growers have had huge issues with water and everybody is strapped for irrigation,” he said. “They are running out of water and decisions are being made as to whether to irrigate crops, or give up on them and concentrate the water where it is needed.
“Everything seems to be against us at the moment, but unfortunately we cannot control Mother Nature. The factory has been superb, and taking everything we have possibly got, so we are not losing crop.
“There will be a shortage of peas going into the freezers, I am convinced of that. Those back-end peas are just not going to produce what we budgeted for – but what will be frozen will be good quality.”
Mr Corfield said the pea harvest, which began on June 18, is likely to run until August 15, “providing the crop does not give up in the meantime”.