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Deeping Fen farmer says effects of last 12 months' weather will be felt for a long time

The past year has been the most difficult for farmers that I have experienced in my lifetime. We have had severe rainfall events and droughts before, but none to affect us as much as the last 12 months.

I remember July 10, 1968 when we received 4.5 inches of rain in the one night. That night we were due to start pea vining after a break of two days.

We met at midnight and then all went home as it was raining so hard. The next morning I went down the farm and every crop was flat on the ground except the sugar beet and that was bent over. It remained wet for the next few months and then the weather returned to normal.

A soaked potato field on Leadenhall Farm, Hobeach Marsh, last year.
A soaked potato field on Leadenhall Farm, Hobeach Marsh, last year.

In 1976 we had the great drought and during the winter of 1975/6, there was so little rain our ploughing here in Deeping Fen never got wet so in February 1976 when we were drilling peas, the dust was blowing and there was so little all summer, peas, sugar beet and barley never germinated.

The drought did end with a bang. It was August Bank Holiday when we received over three inches of rain and above average rainfall continued until the end of February 1977. It then dried up but not in such a hurry as it did this spring.

Every farmer will remember the autumn of 2019 and the spring of 2020 for the rest of his life when even with all the modern machinery and four-wheel drive tractors we have we were unable to harvest all of our crops.

Nicholas Watts (38144397)
Nicholas Watts (38144397)

Lots of fields not ploughed and those fields that were ploughed had no frost mould on them. It all made for a very difficult spring as the rain switched off, then the sun shone and the winds blew, giving us a very short window when we were able to sow crops before the land came too dry.

Last years crops still had to be harvested and it was really the luck of the draw as to where your crops were destined for as some markets dried up and some could take all you could supply.

Now into July, the weather and the markets are returning to normal but the effects of the last 12 months will be felt for several months yet.

Nicholas Watts

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