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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Farmers 'praying for sunshine'
Lightning strikes near a wheat field
Heavy rain and storms have battered wheat crops
At this time of year, farmers should be hard at work harvesting their summer crops.

Instead, in many areas of the country, machinery is laying dormant and the only sound to be heard is that of heavy rain.

The wet weather is threatening to ruin entire crops, left to rot because it is impossible to harvest them.

The situation is becoming increasingly grim, and farmers are warning entire fields may be lost if there is no change in the weather soon.

One farmer, Simon Edwards, runs a 700-acre property in north Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border.

He has managed to finish harvesting his crops of barley and oats, but his fields of wheat and peas risk going to waste.

Harvest cut

Only one hectare of his wheat crop has been harvested, leaving a further 99 hectares at the mercy of the elements.

There are pools of water out in the wheat crops
Simon Edwards
"It started raining again last night and hasn't stopped. There's been a tremendous amount of rain," he told BBC News Online from his farm.

"There are pools of water out in the wheat crops. The rain has been so heavy it's knocked the wheat down.

"The peas are getting desperate too. It really is critical now," he said.

He said the cost of drying out the waterlogged crops would put a serious dent in profits, as would the cost of trying to protect them from disease.

"We spray for blight, the rain washes it off and we have to spray again. This is all going to cost an awful lot of money," he said.

He said the value of the crops could be at least halved - if they can be salvaged at all.

A man battles the elements in July
Heavy rain has plagued Britain this summer
Some of that loss could be offset by selling the produce as animal feed, "but you don't get very rich" off that, Mr Edwards said.

"This is as bad as I've ever seen it, really. Most people around here are in the same position."

Some farmers have been able to do at least some harvesting during brief pockets of fine weather, but the recent persistent rain had made even that small amount impossible.

Write-off

Last year's dry weather provided a bumper harvest, but the havoc caused by this year's torrential storms could also stretch on into 2005 as seeds and soil become damaged as well.

This season's crops are not a write-off yet, but their quality is deteriorating with every rainy day.

If we don't get a dry week next week, some crops will be completely gone
"We need fine weather now," Mr Edwards said. "If we don't get a dry week next week, some crops will be completely gone."

But there seems to be little cause for hope in the days ahead. The forecast for the coming week is for heavy showers and storms.

That will make further harvesting impossible for at least the next seven days, leaving Mr Edwards with nothing to do but look out over 99 hectares of wheat that should not be there.

"All we can do is sit and wait," he said. "And pray for a bit of sunshine."




SEE ALSO:
Sun sets on ruined summer harvest
20 Aug 04  |  Scotland
Farmer's despair over wet weather
19 Aug 04  |  Hereford/Worcs


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