Rain brings drought respite

Heavy rain over the past two weeks has eased pressure on farmers hit by water restrictions, but the relief is likely to be temporary and there are still concerns about the growing season ahead.

James Smith, Kent regional NFU chairman and top-fruit grower, said the rain had brought some relief. “The rainfall we have had has eased the pressure and the need for irrigation has been reduced. It has helped because as trees come into bloom we need to make them as comfortable as possible. The outlook is fair. We’ve got to get through the next six weeks without any frost and then we will be able to predict how the season will go.”

Paul Tame, regional environment advisor, East Midlands NFU, said the downpours had allowed farmers who use winter storage reservoirs to fill them up from rivers that had been hit by bans on water abstraction.

“It has eased the situation in the short term,” he said. “The problem is if after this wet weather, the dry weather returns. However if we continue to get dollops of rain like we have just had we will be fine. What we really need is for the aquifers to be recharged next winter.”

Brian Finnerty, NFU East Anglia spokesman, said the rain would help delay the start of irrigation season, which usually begins in May. “It was so dry last April that irrigation was in full swing. If we get a hot dry spell in the summer we could still be looking at restrictions through the environment agency.”