Drought may cause further feed spikes

The recent dry weather is likely to impact on arable crops as winter-sown barley and wheat have started to ripen across the region

A field of dried corn plants
A field of dried corn plants

The recent dry weather is likely to impact on arable crops as winter-sown barley and wheat have started to ripen across the region.

Wheat fields are now starting to turn colour, but due to the wet weather in 2012, many UK crops are not expected to be harvested until the end of August.

Farmers have long been requesting seed companies to produce early maturing wheat varieties that produce a heavier weight of yield.

There is an abundance of late varieties available, but farmers have faced exceptional climatic conditions in recent years, and the effects of the 2012 harvest seem set to continue this year.

Owing to the 2012 wet field conditions, yields suffered and the resulting delays in harvesting impacted upon crop sowing for 2013.

In certain cases, top quality winter seed as well as actual seed availability has been limited. Given some farmers were unable to sow crops in September and October due to the wet conditions, instead, many decided to sow spring varieties.

The prevailing wet conditions earlier this year, including several inches of snow and hard frosts, did not help spring plantings. The boot is now on the other foot and dry weather conditions may impact upon weight of yield and resulting quality.

As reported in The Journal, 11 are facing severe weather extremes and pressure is mounting for increased methods of water conservation and soil protection.

Farmers claim seed companies should produce high yielding, earlier maturing wheat varieties and this will be beneficial to follow with oilseed rape sowing in August.

The delays to the 2012 oilseed rape sowings, soil conditions and inclement spring weather has impacted upon the rape crop flowerings, which is estimated at four to six weeks behind normal.

However, major drought concerns in North America are set to add pressure to global food supplies.

In 2012, the US encountered its worst drought conditions in more than 60 years, as fears mounted that a return to the near dust-bowl conditions of the 1930s was imminent.

Almost two-thirds of the contiguous United States was under some level of drought condition at the beginning of August 2012, with more than 20% classified as extreme conditions or even worse. This caused major animal feed price spikes in the US as well as on a global-basis.

Fears are mounting that a similar return is likely, inevitably causing UK price increases for imported animal feed protein, according to North America agri-expert, Bob Lang.

He said: “The US is in the third week of drought expansion and moderate to exceptional categories have grown to nearly 45%. The US is the world’s largest food exporter and another drought will impact globally. Nebraska, the fourth largest corn- producing state and one of the largest producers of cattle and wheat, is the driest of the major producers being 88% in moderate to exceptional drought.

Twelve months ago, the UK harvest conditions may change in the next few weeks and this will benefit arable crop growers.

The situation is less certain in the US and many farmers may not be able to cope financially with another year of increases in animal feed prices.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer