Pete reflects on the impact of the summer drought
It’s ten o’clock on another hot summer night and I have finally found the perfect temperature on what, for us, has been the hottest day of the year. The catch is that I am sat on the back step rather than in bed, sharing the moment with a few mosquitos.
On the plus side the orchards and wildflower meadow run right up to the door and with them comes the wildlife, right now that includes the hedgehog family. I can’t quite work out how many, at least one adult (mum presumably) and four youngsters I think, prickly cricket balls with a surprising turn of speed. They seem oblivious to my presence actually trundling under my legs while snuffling through the leaves. We have been putting water out for them which may explain their regular visits during the heatwave. Their snuffling, snorting and rummaging through the bushes around the house has been the soundtrack to the summer nights drifting through the open windows.
On the farm water, or lack thereof, will be the overriding memory for this June and July. It has been drier here than ’76 and we are grateful for our investment in winter-fill reservoirs over the years. We have enough water until mid-August and given this month is often the wettest of the summer we should be ok, fingers crossed.
The wage bill however will be inflated, thanks to the irrigation team working 24-7 week after week. So too the electricity bill - two irrigation pumps running full bore and vacuum coolers & coldstores working hard meant our record electricity bill for June. Hopefully the solar PV will have performed well and we have the consolation all our supply is renewable supplied by www.goodenergy.co.uk.
While we have kept current crops alive, growth in most veg grinds to a halt about 25°C so supply has been tight. The apples and pears this autumn will be small as a result of the temperatures and restricted water. Of greater concern is the poor emergence of seeds drilled for the winter, the heat and dry reducing germination. While the media is busy discussing stock piling food for Brexit next year, the reality is that UK veg supplies this winter will be reduced so imports will have to increase sooner.
Funnily enough the heatwave has broken before publishing this blog, the final few days of July seeing more rain than May, June and July put together. Either the advent of school holidays or agreeing to buy a neighbouring farmers reservoir must have seen to that. At least it gives us farmers something different to moan about, and the hedgehogs aren’t keeping me awake at night.