Topsy Turvy year of weather
Much of 2018 and a good part of 2019 have been dominated by periods of very dry and settled weather. This has been especially true on much of the eastern side of the UK with even the more northern arable areas experiencing extreme dry at certain points in 2019. As of October 1st, East Anglia has a deficit of 200mm of rainfall for the last 3 years and 72mm for 2019 – in spite of the significant rains experienced over recent days.
2019 has differed notably from 2018 is that there have been 2 spectacular periods of rainfall so far this year in both June and September respectively. Critically, these spells of wet weather have come at important times of the year for anybody involved in agriculture and the consequences in terms of delays and losses have been significant.
The June rains affected parts of Lincolnshire and the fens very badly indeed causing significant damage to crops which were at a critical point in their growing cycle. Over 200mm of rain fell on some farms in just a week. Similarly, the September rains have caused significant disruption to many farms with machinery and staff held back whilst soils remain too saturated to travel on.
The September weather event has seen parts Lancashire recording over 100mm of rain in just a weekend with much more rain in the days before and after this weather event. Elsewhere, rainfall totals have also been dramatic with many places getting double their average monthly rainfall. Soils in arable fields have quickly reached field capacity months before they generally achieve this status. This has resulted in widespread flooding for many with unwanted scenes of vast swathes of the countryside being buried beneath temporary lakes greeting many communities in recent days as drainage infrastructure and watercourses have become overloaded at the very rapid change in events.
This rainfall has come at a time of year when crop growth is slowing on account of the cooling temperatures and there is limited heat from the sun to pull water out of the soils on account of the autumn conditions. Soils will therefore be slow to dry out and the effects of this rainfall will be felt by many in arable farming for months to come.
These weather events have occurred in the UK at the same time that world climate is also experiencing close scrutiny following many other unusual weather events around the globe. Record snowfall in the USA in September and record breaking heat in many other parts of Europe through the summer of 2019 are just a couple of many examples of some of the extreme global weather events that have been recently observed.
The science behind the ever changing climate which we all experience is hitting the headlines on a daily basis at the moment. In our own tiny corner of the world the apparent and obvious increasing importance of what our land drains are there to do has arguably never had greater significance and importance as we work with our farming clients to create more stable and controlled growing conditions for the crops grown in the UK. The land drains themselves can’t stop the rain, but they can make a huge difference to field recovery post rainfall and they can be the difference between complete crop failure or ensuring a crop can survive and flourish after severe rains.
Change, sustainability and developing a more robust countryside to cope with extreme temperatures and rainfall looks set to play an important role going forwards. Water management will unquestionably be key. The weather stats tell their own story – we all just need to take greater note.