According to Clive Aslet, writing for The Telegraph, the lack of rain is destroying crops and threatening a big rise in food prices. He says that growers are being forced to irrigate lower-value crops such as winter wheat and barley. Normally, watering would target sugar beets, vegetables and other high-value produce.
In the English Midland, a farmer in Hertfordshire expects a 40 percent drop in yield for winter wheat, according to Aslet.
Spring-sown crops, being unable to properly establish their root systems, "have been decimated," the writer states.
A grower in Sussex says that, owing to drought, wheat is heading too early, on straw that is much shorter than usual. Along with lowered yield of grain, the drought-induced stunting raises the prospect of an animal bedding shortage, straw leftover from the harvest being needed for this purpose.
Summer heat in 2010 led to a shortage of animal bedding, so the ongoing drought could further tighten supply.
On a brighter note, Aslet was upbeat on prospects for orchard fruits and strawberries, which benefit from warmth while suffering less from the dryness.
Google Maps image. Weather data, according to AccuWeather.com, show that the dearth of rainfall since the first of March has been severe in much of England, especially in the Midland, the east and the south. Here, a wide area including greater London has had an average of only about 25 to 30 percent of normal rainfall. Some spots have had even less.
What is more, the driest areas have also been unusually warm, having average temperatures of about 4 to 6 degrees C above normal since the beginning of March. Higher temperatures normally imply higher drying rates, a factor that would heighten the drought impact.
Looking forward, indications are that rainfall for the next one to two weeks will be below normal to perhaps near normal. Thus, prospects for a break in the drought seem low at this time.
Story by Jim Andrews, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist