The U.K.’s longest heat wave in seven years and below-average rainfall this month is threatening the country’s wheat yields after cold, soggy weather slowed crop development earlier this year.
Temperatures in the U.K. have climbed above 82 degrees Fahrenheit for 11 days, the longest hot spell since 2006, the Met Office said today in an online report. England had 0.2" of rain on average in the first two weeks of July. Similar precipitation totals in the second half of the month would mean the driest July for the region since 1825, when England and Wales saw just 0.3" of rain, the national weather forecaster said.
U.K. wheat crops are developing at 10 to 14 days slower than the normal pace after cold and wet weather early in the season, said Charlotte Garbutt, a senior analyst at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. The country had its coldest spring since 1962, with temperatures averaging about 43 degrees Fahrenheit in March, April and May, and 2012 was the country’s second-wettest year on record, Met Office data show.
"If it goes on being hot, it’s potentially damaging," Garbutt said by telephone yesterday. "Crops developed in water- logged soils, so they don’t have as strong of a root base as they might have had in a typical year, because they haven’t had to get down deep to find moisture. That makes them more vulnerable to dry weather later in the season."
Feed-wheat futures rallied to a record last November in London after excess rain cut the past season’s harvest by 13%, government data show. The U.K. was probably a net- importer of wheat for the first time in 11 years in the 2012-13 season ended June 30, and purchases probably will be larger than outbound shipments again this season, Garbutt said.
U.K. farmers may have planted wheat for the 2013-14 harvest on an area 29% smaller than a year earlier, after excess rain last autumn during the time winter crops are usually sown, the National Farmers Union said last month. The harvest may be about 12 million metric tons, down from 13.3 million tons in the previous season, AHDB senior analyst Jack Watts said in an interview June 12.
Rainfall averaged 0.36" across the U.K. in the first half of July, with Scotland and Northern Ireland seeing higher totals than England and Wales, the Met Office said. The country had 132 hours of sunshine, 77% of the amount usually seen for the full month of July. Temperatures have been about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal for the month.
Southeast England including London was under a level three heat watch today, with temperatures expected to climb as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the Met Office said. Hot, sunny weather remains in the forecast for much of the U.K. through at least July 21.