Farming feature: Cold winds wreak crops havoc

One of Richard Styles' oats ‘crops’ taken at the beginning of April.

One of Richard Styles' oats crops taken at the beginning of April. - Credit: Archant

In this month’s National Farmers’ Union column, Debenham-based arable farmer RICHARD STYLES ponders the effects of climate change as the unseasonable weather hits his yields

Richard Styles

Richard Styles - Credit: Archant

THAT most tired of all current issues, global warming or more aptly climate change, has been at the forefront of my mind recently.

Now before you all turn over the page let me give you a moment’s pause to think.

You won’t need me to remind you how cold it was at the start of April.

It certainly did not feel that British Summer Time had arrived.

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The reason for this bad spell of weather was the northern jet stream being stuck down near the Azores and letting the cold north easterly wind howl across our region.

Politicians across the western world have stated that the human race must do something about this climate change threat before it’s too late.

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So how are we going to move the jet stream towards us to bring the warmth of spring?

A large air fan perhaps? As the high air current’s course is partly set by the ocean currents and temperatures perhaps a large underwater freezer unit in the Arctic might help.

The point I’m trying to make is we are powerless to alter the planet’s weather.

In my view Earth certainly does not need us scurrying about on its surface and will happily sail on in its celestial path without humans.

The other point is that, not far from where you are sitting right now, is a place where no plants grow and no other life exists.

And it’s only about four miles from you. Can you point to it?

No? Well look upwards at the very thin layer of the Troposphere we live and breathe. It is so precious and yet we take it all for granted.

Likewise with our food and water supply - the taps always run with clean water and the shelves are heaving with bountiful food, so why worry?

The former government chief scientific officer, Professor Beddington stated that we are at a tipping point and must do something to combat climate change.

The trouble is politicians see that ‘something’ as yet another opportunity to tax us, which will do little to move the jet stream.

The contributions we all make via the Climate Change Levy have made little difference to the way the jet stream moves.

Many of our crops this year are simply a disaster.

The picture you see is our winter oat crop, bound for the porridge bowls of the nation.

The crop yield will be greatly reduced and so will the availably of home grown oats.

We can import oats but one thing the ‘horsegate’ scandal should have taught us is: can we trust the food processing industry to import foods produced to the same high standards as here?

Weather patterns across the globe point to further volatility in food production.

When asked on BBC local radio what should our government be doing about the drought in 2011 I said store more food.

One suspects that, even though our ancestors used this technique to survive through shortages of food, we have yet to learn that lesson.

Let’s hope we don’t learn it the hard way.

n NFU member Richard Styles is an arable farmer at Debenham, Suffolk. He enjoys simply watching wildlife on the farm and his aim is to try and develop better ways of farming to help them thrive.

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