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Farm survey highlights the impact of extreme weather on crop yields

A combine harvester at work at Thrigby. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A combine harvester at work at Thrigby. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The extreme weather contrasts of 2018 brought an unpredictable harvest for farmers with many crop yields falling well below long-term averages, says an industry survey.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has released the results of its annual harvest survey, which show mixed results across the arable sector after a challenging season which ranged from the bitter cold of the Beast from the East to a dry heatwave summer.

Key statistics include:

• Wheat yield: 7.7 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) – down 6% on the five-year average (8.2t/ha) and the lowest yield since 2013 (7.4t/ha).

• Winter barley: 6.8t/ha – down 2% on the five year average at 6.9t/ha.

• Spring barley: 5.2t/ha – down 10% on the five year average at 5.8t/ha and lowest yield since 2012 (5.0t/ha).

• Oilseed rape: 3.6t/ha – slightly above the five year average of 3.5t/ha.

The NFU said the varied results, after a year of extreme weather conditions and unpredictable prices, demonstrate the need for the government to implement measures in its post-Brexit policies to help build resilience and combat volatility in the farming industry.

Combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw said: “The extreme weather events of this year have caused crop yields to become increasingly unpredictable. Despite our favourable climate and soil conditions, farmers have experienced an incredible amount of variation in this year’s harvest.

“With Brexit, the volatility of world commodity markets and the weather adding further uncertainty, farmers will be turning to the government for ways to build financial resilience into their businesses as farm payments are phased out over the next few years.

“It is essential that a new domestic agriculture policy is supportive of resilience in the face of short-term localised shocks while driving long-term competitiveness.”

The NFU said the British arable sector annually provides five million tonnes of flour, barley and malt to make 985 million pints, grain for 11 tonnes of farmed animal feed, and underpins the production of the equivalent of 11 million loaves of bread every day.

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