Where’s our sun-kissed Riviera?

Guy Smith of Wigboro Wick Farm

Guy Smith of Wigboro Wick Farm - Credit: Archant

In this month’s National Farmers’ Union column, St Osyth farmer GUY SMITH ponders the difficulty of planning for the weather when climate change theory keeps changing

SO, the latest climate change theory is that the jet stream has gone all wobbly.

Instead of cutting a reasonably straight course in the stratosphere across the north Atlantic, it now weaves a more tortured path.

Consequently, the theory goes, our weather gets stuck in wet periods and dry periods which, in turn, leads farmers down a more tortured path.

That would certainly seem to have been the case in the last two years as we have swung from having hosepipe bans to pumping out floods.

Where we were making every effort to fill reservoirs this time last year, this spring they are well beyond the brim.

The problem I have with climate change theories is that they seem to be a lot better at explaining past weather than predicting future weather.

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As a farmer what I really want to know is what the weather is going to be like for the coming seasons. As interesting as it may be, it’s not that useful to be told what weather we have just had.

If I was being unduly mean, I could suggest meteorologists are not as keen as they were 10 years ago to predict future weather patterns because they are fed up with getting it wrong.

My memory may be playing tricks but I seem to recollect being told climate change would give us mild, snow free winters and early springs with daffodils blooming in February rather than March.

Today I really do wish I hadn’t thrown my old snow plough away for scrap and, with March nearly on us, I still can’t see many flashes of yellow down the farm lane.

I also distinctly remember talk among the weather gurus about a new, more Mediterranean climate which would mean farmers could start growing olives and apricots in East Anglia.

In contrast, last year, we even struggled to grow plums and apples because the spring seemed to be indefinitely postponed.

As for the prospects for some sort of sun-kissed Riviera on the Essex coast unfortunately, last July, Clacton sea front felt more like Baffin Bay than Barcelona.

But let me be clear, I’m no climate change denier. I’m just confused if not a little perplexed.

If I’m going to invest in my farm so it can better meet the challenges of future weather patterns then I need to make informed decisions.

Should I spend my money on better drainage or should I concentrate on better irrigation?

Should I invest in a top of the range, tracked combine with plenty of capacity so I can snatch my crops in catchy harvests or is that just encouraging inefficiency as something £100,000 cheaper will probably do the job?

Weather-proofing our farms is a nice idea but it comes at a cost.

Bracing ourselves for more extreme weather is all very well but paying for it up front is an expensive gamble.

As any speculator will tell you, you need to invest in the right scenario for you to get a return on your money.

n Guy Smith farms at St Osyth and is NFU council delegate for Essex