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Rain stays away but damp hits hard

When is a wet summer not a wet summer? This is the question farmers are grappling with as the weather continues to frustrate efforts to get the cereal crops in. Although rainfall has been below average for August, the damp in the atmosphere has prevented the crops reaching the optimum level of dryness for harvesting.

According to regional paper, the EDP, the mean temperature has been -0.5 below average; it is 60 per cent drier than average and it has been the dullest August since 2008 and the third dullest on record.

With some farmers still to even begin harvesting their spring barley and wheat, the damp, drizzle and humidity has frustrated any attempts to get the crops in. Harvesting and storing damp grains will do nothing but depreciate the value of the crop hugely, with old and bugs settling in.

The biggest threat to farmers who still have crops in the ground is that the seed will start to germinate in the damp but warm conditions. This could be the difference between a crop going for malting or for feed and subsequently a decrease in value of £30-£40 per ton.

The saving grace so far is that the wheat and barley has stayed in relatively good condition in the ground, because average temperatures have been lower. The gamble farmers have had to take is to either wait and hope to harvest in finer weather or to collect the crop in and pay the additional cost of drying it in store.

The added irony is that potato farmers are busily irrigating, while wheat farmers are waiting for things to dry up.