Ready for the rain
Although it may signal the impending arrival of Autumn, the increased rainfall in the UK will be a welcome sight for farmers throughout the land.
Sat here gazing at the rain dancing off the rooves our farm sheds has us longingly reminiscing the t-shirt, beach, and BBQ weather we were recently treated to. However, with the bigger picture in mind, we are more than happy to take our meat-grilling indoors for the time being. The village of Coningsby in Lincolnshire clocked the UK’s hottest ever temperature last month, with a blistering 40.3 degrees celsius. Although great news for any tan-chasers among us, the recording furthered a worrying trend across recent years whereby these record temperatures have continued to rise. In fact, four of the top five hottest known days in UK history have come since July 2019.
Image: Healthy, organic soil.
So why are these temperatures rising? Climate change is the driving factor. The release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide through processes such as burning fossil fuels effectively traps heat from the Sun and causes the planet to heat up. There are also other contributors that directly impact UK temperatures. For instance, plumes of hot air drifting up the globe from Africa and human-made urbanisation materials such as tarmac which absorb and emit heat at different periods of the day.
Any form of extreme weather can have adverse effects on the plans of UK farmers and the worst extended spell of dryness in 35 years that has occurred due to recent soaring temperatures is no exception. The ground has been left desiccated during a period in which farmers usually rely on rainfall and the security of backup reservoirs in order to ensure crops are able to yield and grazing fields are able to flourish. Resultantly, most areas of production have felt the consequences in one way or another.
Close to Home
As a humble, family-run organic farm we have also experienced the effects of the drought. For example, shortages throughout our ‘Pasture for Life Certified Beef and Lamb’ range due to the quality of the available grass meaning we have had to delay the frequency of our production of these fresh cuts. Similarly, the bone-dry soil has also resulted in our dairy section taking a hit. As of now, our fruit and vegetable offering remains as strong as ever, but recent yields could have an adverse effect on selections as we move towards Autumn.
Image: Eversfield Organic PFLA certified Beef Fillet.
In concerning times such as these, our dedication to sustainable, organic practices is a comfort in safeguarding our future and continuing to provide top-quality produce to our customers. Our nutrient-rich soil, unaltered by artificial fertilisers and harmful pesticides and simply reared with natural livestock manure, is high in organic matter and thus has a low bulk density. Alongside this, we have replaced conventional ploughing with our strip-till technique in order to ensure our turf remains aerated, preserving its organic structure. Another practice we have in place is rotational grazing whereby our livestock frequently change paddock location in order to allow the ground time to rejuvenate and maintain its organic goodness. According to Hudson’s 1994 study, soil with 4% organic matter held twice the amount of water than soil with just 1%.
Making the most of the weather
Recent rainfall will be of significant relief to all of those in the agricultural industry so don’t be surprised to find some extra cheery faces beneath tweed caps at your local farmer’s market! Now, attention must turn to what can be done to future-proof the field against extreme conditions.
As mentioned previously, the key lies in improving soil health. By doing so, we are actively combating climate change through carbon storage and growing crops built to withstand more severe weather. Other techniques to protect the turf may involve the installation of improved ventilation systems in livestock houses and increasing the capacity for rainwater storage. Finally, these raised temperatures may represent an opportunity to begin growing a different range of crops. Whilst traditional crops begin to dwindle in the heat, eggplants, hot peppers, melons, and sweet potatoes are just beginning to catch their stride. So, with adaptation and creative planning, we are certain that organic farming will continue to thrive.
Image: Eversfield Organic Market Garden.