Heatwave leaves Lincolnshire’s farmers counting the cost of unpredictable harvest

A stock image of a John Deere tractor. EMN-180813-113801001
A stock image of a John Deere tractor. EMN-180813-113801001

Early indications from this year’s harvest suggest farmers fortunes have varied dramatically across Lincolnshire, after the last remaining wheat fields were brought in this weekend.

Research by the agricultural accountants Duncan & Toplis has revealed some of the biggest variation in yields for almost a decade, with hot dry conditions and indiscriminate rainfall producing significantly different yields, and challenges, for farms across the region.

Arable yields on lighter drought-prone land have proved very poor - as low as 5t/hectare for wheat in some areas - while on the better land farmers have seen averages of up to 8.5t/hectare; only slightly below last year and the record yields from 2015.

Unlike the variation experienced by arable farmers, non-irrigated vegetable crops have suffered ‘across the board’, as have sugar beet crops which are now in serious need of water, according to the findings.

Meanwhile a poor grass crop has left many livestock farmers already dipping in to their winter feed rations.

With last year’s strong arable harvest bringing higher tax bills for many in January 2019, those farmers who have suffered this year may face a challenging financial situation come the winter.

Mark Chatterton, head of agriculture for Duncan & Toplis, said: “2018 has been a year of damage limitation for many farmers, but thankfully plenty have got through relatively unscathed.

“Others, haven’t been so lucky, however, and they’ll need to manage their finances carefully over the next 12 months.

“We’ve seen dramatically different yields brought in from place to place.

“The ‘postcode lottery’ of growing conditions has spared some farms while punishing others - even neighbouring farms have seen big differences in yields.

“This, combined with the added risk of fires damaging combines and the Australian drought pushing up feed prices, could bring big variations in fortunes next year.”