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UK potato growers need to be better prepared for drought

Farmers and growers are being urged to plan and manage their use of irrigation this year, as concerns about the effect of continued dry conditions on water supplies mount. The Environment Agency shows that river flows are below normal for this time of year, with irrigation prospects declared “moderate to poor” for areas that are reliant on chalk aquifers for supply.

Prospects for East Anglia, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire are now described as “poor”, while the situation in Yorkshire and the East Midlands is “moderate” in most catchments. Most other areas remain “moderate”, including Kent and the South East, West Midlands and the South West.

A “poor” rating is given where water levels are well below average, soil moisture deficit is developing early and significant restrictions on abstraction are probable.

As a result, many of those who rely on irrigation have already made changes to their business, in efforts to manage future drought risks and increase resilience, says Jerry Knox of the Cranfield Water Science Institute. “One of the lessons to come from 2018 is to be better prepared. Drought is intrinsically difficult to manage because it’s a creeping phenomenon with a slow onset, so forward planning is always helpful.”

He warns that any water restrictions could be imposed sooner this year than they were in 2018.


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