Is your land ready for another scorching summer?

2017 saw one of the wettest summers on record; a stark contrast to 2018, which brought with it some of the hottest weather the UK has seen to date.

In England and Wales, June 2018 ranked as one of the driest on record since 1910, while Scotland saw 7.4in of rainfall in June the previous year – the worst figure since records began. These extreme weather conditions subsequently took a toll on land and crop growth, with yields shrinking severely as plants struggled to grow in monsoon-like circumstances or survive in the searing heat.

Now, with temperatures forecasted to rise again and two-thirds of farmers reportedly still experiencing problems following 2017 and 2018’s challenges, we take a look at how best to prepare your land for what looks to be another long, hot summer…

Water shortages

The biggest struggle for landowners during the 2018 heatwave was the impact of water shortages. During especially hot and dry seasons, plants become damaged, reducing their capacity to absorb water. For example, spring barley develops a pink-coloured straw due to the stress on the leaves and grass quickly turns brown and dry. The limited moisture in the soil also means any seeds planted are less likely to germinate quickly; as a result, specialist equipment and greater quantities of fuel are required to cultivate the soil.

These arid conditions resulted in significant disruption to the agricultural industry. Although deep-rooted plants displayed a better chance of survival, many farmers and smallholders reported their arable crop yields were roughly 20% lower than normal. Groundsmen managing golf clubs and estates also struggled to keep lawns looking fresh and green, while orchard owners saw the fruits of their labour shrivel up before their eyes.

Water, water everywhere

If there was one thing 2017 wasn’t short of, it was water. But the wetter weather brought with it its own set of problems. For many farmers and smallholders – particularly those in the north – the soil was too wet to begin sowing for next year. Coupled with reduced productivity levels, this left many unable to turn a satisfactory profit. Equally, groundsmen struggled to maintain their lawns in muddy and swamp-like conditions.

Although June this year saw a month’s worth of rainfall in just one week, this was luckily much more manageable than in 2017. This unexpected bout of wetter days has helped ensure there is ample supply to keep crops and lawns sufficiently watered over the coming months. For future use, any excess collected flood water can then be stored in closed, artificial ponds made of varying materials or in storage reservoirs that can be equipped with drip-irrigation systems.

The right equipment for the job

To break up and smooth out the surface of hard, dry soil, harrowing is ideal – while tilling helps to retain the nutrients in the soil and prevent it from drying out. Tilled soil holds on to moisture for longer, providing faster and more thorough infiltration when it finally does rain during dry periods.

Farm Tech supplies a range of cost-effective machines for optimal tilling and harrowing. Starting at £350 (incl. VAT), our Drag Harrowis both quick and easy to use. It is ideal for use around smallholdings and paddocks and comes with multiple settings for an aggressive, medium or light harrowing.

We also offer a selection of Rotary Tillers, which can be attached to small or compact tractors. Starting at £960, the tillers are perfect for cultivating compacted soil and help to leave the ground ready for planting. The machines are also equipped with height-adjustable skids for flexible tilling depth, while the rear flap creates a smooth level finish to any tilled soil.

Our Stone Burierscan also help to create a level surface for a smooth new seedbed by burying heavier stones and other debris, leaving the lighter tilled soil on top. Tilling the soil and burying stones in this way will also help with drainage – in case we do see some wetter days after all!

For additional information or to make an appointment to view our equipment on site, please don’t hesitate to get in touch withone of our sales representatives.