Expert warning over impact of climate change on South East farmers, as region braces for hottest July day on record

Photo by Jim Vallance

WITH temperatures expected to break records tomorrow (Thursday) in the South East, an agricultural expert said she is worried about the strain rising temperatures are having on the region’s farming community.

Viv Vivers, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB), said hotter summers are taking a toll on farmers, who are increasingly faced with crop failure concerns, animal welfare issues and wildfire risks.

Tomorrow, July 25, the Met Office predicts could be the hottest July day in UK recorded history, with mercury possibly soaring to 38 degrees in the South East. This would surpass the current July record is 36.7°C set at Heathrow in 2015.

But Vivers highlighted the adverse impact consistent heatwaves are having on farmers, who are still experiencing the fallout from last summer’s drought-like conditions.

She warned, if temperatures continue to rise at record rates over the coming summers, farming businesses will have an uphill battle to survive.

Vivers, who advises farmers in the South East, said: “Although people up and down the country are enjoying a break from the gloomy British summertime, it is sinking in that there are consequences to persistent heatwaves.

“Farmers are increasingly having to deal with extreme weather conditions – the pendulum now swinging between record levels of rainfall to record temperatures.

“According to the Met Office, the summer of 2018 was the joint warmest on record for the UK as a whole and the hottest ever for England.

“It also warned that climate change has made the record breaking 2018 UK summer 30 times more likely to recur – and by 2050, these are likely to happen every other year.

“The summer of 2018 was a challenging one for farmers, who suffered food shortages for livestock and poor harvests.

“This latest heatwave, following on the coattails of the record 2018 summer, gives credence to experts’ warning that extreme heatwaves in the summer could be the new norm, meaning increased volatility and uncertainty for farmers.”

Vivers said that farmers feel the effects of the hot weather in other ways too, including animal welfare issues and fire risks.

“The sad reality is that farmers, particularly smaller operations, are having to deal with all these risk factors on their own.  It is hard for them to juggle the responsibilities of keeping their animals and fields healthy in such sustained, adverse weather,” said Vivers.

“Farmers can certainly take steps, such as ensuring there is enough shade and water available for their livestock, ensuring hay stacks are kept out of direct sunlight, away from glass or mirrors, entrances to fields are easily accessible for fire engines and making fire departments aware of sources of water on their land in case of an emergency.

“Many farmers are also using water bowsers when harvesting, as combine harvesters are more prone to catching fire in this heat.

“But members of the public can do their bit too, particularly when it comes to enjoying sunny days out in the countryside.

“Fields can be like tinder in prolonged periods of hot weather, so ensure that cigarettes are discarded of properly, refrain from lighting disposal BBQs, unless in designated areas, and don’t leave any glass behind, which could spark a fire.

“Anyone who sees a fire should contact the fire authorities right away.  Even something as innocuous as a bit of smouldering can quickly escalate and cause extensive damage.”

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