U.K. Wheat May Escape Flood Harm as Crops Seen in Good Shape

Jan 02, 2014 10:40 am ET

(Updates number of flood alerts in fourth paragraph, adds crop condition survey in seventh.)

Jan. 2 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. wheat and rapeseed crops probably will escape damage from recent flooding because young plants are dormant for winter and able to withstand some excess moisture at this point in their development, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board.

Crops would need to be submerged for about three days for damage to occur, Charlotte Garbutt, a senior analyst at the Kenilworth, England-based researcher, said by phone today. Most farmers in the U.K., the European Union’s third-biggest wheat grower, finished planting winter crops by the end of November, according to consultant ADAS U.K. Winter varieties usually account for more than 95 percent of the country’s wheat production and are harvested starting in July.

“The crops were in good condition already and the water is flowing away reasonably quickly,” Garbutt said. “There may be some isolated areas with a few problems, but as a general picture for the whole of the country, it’s a localized issue and not that concerning at this time.”

More than 300 flood warnings and alerts were issued across England and Wales as of 3:07 p.m., with the most notices for the south and west, according to the Environment Agency. Southern Wales received as much as 49 millimeters (1.9 inches) of rain in the 24 hours ended at 6 a.m. today, while much of southwest England had between 28 millimeters and 34 millimeters, said Dan Williams, a spokesman for the Met Office. Southern England was wetter than usual in the past month, with double the normal amount of rain falling in some areas in December.

Wind Gusts

Between 5 millimeters and 10 millimeters of rain will fall across much of the U.K. tonight, with areas of southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland receiving an additional 20 millimeters tomorrow, Williams said. Winds of as much as 60 miles an hour are expected across the U.K.’s western coast tomorrow, with gusts further inland reaching 40 to 50 miles an hour, he said.

U.K. wheat production tumbled 10 percent in 2013 to 11.9 million metric tons after excess rain prevented farmers from planting some winter crops in autumn 2012, according to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Even though production declined because of the smaller area, yields and crop quality improved from the prior season, the AHDB has said.

Planting Boosted

Drier weather in autumn 2013 enabled farmers to boost planting by as much as 20 percent from the prior year, improving prospects for the 2014 harvest, the AHDB said in December. Eighty percent of winter wheat, barley and rapeseed crops were in good or excellent condition as plants entered dormancy at the end of November, according to a farmer survey conducted last month by ODA U.K., said Leo von Kameke, an analyst for the farm advisory company in Bartlow, England.

“There’s no reason to be seriously concerned at the moment” about the effect of flooding on crops, von Kameke said. “The last couple of years have shown us that crops are able to come back pretty quickly. Certainly in the 2013 harvest, what went into the ground actually came out pretty good in terms of quality. So crops can be quite resilient and make up for early setbacks.”

--Editors: Dan Weeks, John Deane.