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Ground so hard we have to water onion and potato crops to get them out, says farmer

PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2018

Andrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRS

Andrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRS

Andrew Fairs

East Anglian farmers are feeling the heat as the long dry spell continues, putting pressure on crops and on water reserves.

Andrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRSAndrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRS

A delay in planting caused by the Beast from the East big freeze in February and March, followed later by a prolonged summer heatwave through June and July have combined to create difficult conditions for growers.

Sam Rix, technical director at onion and potato specialists P G Rix (Farms) Ltd, based at Great Horkesley, Colchester, said its reservoirs were drying out and crops were suffering.

The farm, which is run by brothers John and Bill Rix and sons Sam and George, produces more than 22,000 tonnes of onions a year, 15,000 tonnes of potatoes, as well as sugar beet and 10,000 tonnes cereal crops over 2,350 hectares along the Stour Valley between Bures and Dedham.

“We have a number of reservoirs now which are pretty much empty,” said Sam.

Andrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRSAndrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRS

“It has been without doubt one of the most challenging growing seasons ever. The wet and late spring and now this hot drought period is really not a good combination. We are harvesting at the moment. Onion and potato yields are down around 25% at the moment. This may get worse if the dry period continues.

“With regard to irrigation, we are watering flat out but it is coming to the point where we are running out of water fast. We have another week to 10 days of water left. The problem also is that we are having to water onion and potato crops to be able to harvest them as the ground is so hard.”

John Collen of Gisleham, near Lowestoft, said his yields had fallen, with barley down from 9 tonnes/ha last year to 7.7t. Oilseed rape was around 3.4t plus from 4.8t last year.

Mike Porter of Porters Farms Ltd at Walpole, near Halesworth said he had just finished harvesting his oilseed rape crop. It was unclear what yields would be, but he was hoping they would not be as bad as first thought at around 3.75t/ha.

Andrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRSAndrew Fairs of Fairking's combine at work on a wheat field as harvest gets into full flow Picture: ANDREW FAIRS

“The three fields of vining peas for freezing were drilled on May 28 and have only had 4mm of rain since planting. Parts of field are now dying due to lack of rain and such high temperatures,” he said.

“I am hoping that the winter wheat and the spring oats together with the spring barley will give an average yield. Good considering the very wet spring and the drought since.”

One of the depleted reservoirs at onion and potato growers P G Rix (Farms) Ltd which farms between Bures and Dedham Picture: SAM RIXOne of the depleted reservoirs at onion and potato growers P G Rix (Farms) Ltd which farms between Bures and Dedham Picture: SAM RIX

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