Why is the dry weather a concern for UK farmers?

  • 9 May 2017
A field of cereal (either wheat or barley) in a field in Suffolk
Image caption Some farmers said the rainfall for March and April was much less than they'd expected

Wet weather is not something most of us want to see.

But without it, fruit and vegetable crops can't grow properly, and for that reason, farmers are concerned that the UK is having the driest winter in 20 years.

Rivers in Cumbria have been drying up, and the levels of water stored in reservoirs in Cornwall are getting very low.

At the moment, though, the UK isn't thought to be having a drought.

In April the weather was especially dry - the country saw less than half the amount of rain it normally would.

Some farmers, especially those in the south and east of the UK, said there was only 10% of the rainfall they expected to see in March and April.

But if normal levels of rain fall during May and June, they say it will put many crops back on track, although some crops like spring barley probably won't recover completely.

Last month the driest area across the UK was Edinburgh, in Scotland. It saw 7% of its average rainfall.

Southern counties in England, including Kent and Sussex, were also quite dry. They had around 20% of the rain normally expected for April.

It looks like things might be looking up for the farmers soon, with some wetter weather expected this weekend.

What is a drought?

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption The UK Environment Agency, who manage water usage, are asking people to use water wisely

To make things confusing, there are several different types of drought.

One type of drought depends on how long it's been without rain, and if there is below the average rainfall for that season.

Another type looks at the reduced flow of water in rivers.

But if you are a farmer, then your main worry is something called an agricultural drought - when there isn't enough water around to be able to water fruit and vegetable crops.

The Environment Agency manages the levels of water stored in UK reservoirs.

They are asking everyone to use water wisely - for example, turning off the taps when you're brushing your teeth.

It's working with water companies, businesses and farmers to make things better for people and the environment should the dry weather continue.

Water companies will also give tips on how to make sure you aren't wasting water, if they think water saving measures are needed.

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