Farmers’ heatwave fears as drought ‘approaching worst ever seen’

·2-min read

Farmers have shared their fears as the sweltering hot and dry conditions pile further pressure on crops and harvests.

A Met Office amber warning for extreme heat came into force on Thursday, with temperatures expected to climb towards the mid-30s in parts of the UK.

Weather forecasters said much of England and Wales will undergo a heatwave lasting until Sunday, drying up the already parched earth.

It follows the driest July since 1935 and although the temperatures are forecast to recede next week there is still no sign of rain on the way for many areas.

David Barton, a Gloucestershire-based farmer, said his fields are usually green and full of grazing cattle.

This year, however, the unseasonably dry and war conditions have left his land yellow and lacking in the moisture needed to grow crops, some of which have died as a result.

"Every day that it doesn't rain, every day that it's hot and dry, the pressure mounts," he told the BBC.

Mr Barton's comments come as the fire services warn that they will be unable to respond to all call-outs as already stretched services reach crisis point.

Senior staff from crews around the country told The Independent that unprecedented demand and a lack of resources meant crews are not properly equipped to respond to the scale of heat-related incidents caused by the climate crisis.

They also raised concerns that drought conditions could hamper their abilities to tackle wildfires if lakes and ponds can no longer be used to access water.

The Dowry Reservoir near Oldham in Greater Manchester (PA)
The Dowry Reservoir near Oldham in Greater Manchester (PA)

Meanwhile, experts have warned that the extreme conditions seen in July are likely to become more frequent, which will in turn lead to small harvests in the UK, pushing up prices in shops and supermarkets.

"This is fast approaching the worst we've seen," Mr Barton, 55, said of this year.

The hot and dry conditions caused the earliest start to harvest for many farmers since 1976, prompting fears about the impact on food production and crop planting.

Some farmers in East Anglia finished harvesting in July, which is “unheard of”, Tom Bradshaw, deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) who farms wheat, barley and oats near Colchester in Essex, said.

“On our farm, we finished wheat last Thursday,” he said. “We don’t normally start wheat until the last day of July, so it’s incredibly early and certainly unprecedented in many situations.”