Winter field vegetable producers brace for disruption as more snow is forecast

Some crops have already been left in the fields - particularly outdoor spinach, herbs, cauliflower and root vegetables - due to heavy snow and feezing temperatures.

Retailers are meanwhile turning to expensive imports to continue supply.

NFU Board for Horticulture Chairman and Lincolnshire-based brassica grower Sarah Pettitt confirmed that, as reported in Grower on December 10, brassicas have been the worst hit.

She said: "Some of the worst affected are brassica producers, where the sub-zero temperatures have already wiped out 70% of the cauliflower crop ready for harvest.

"The effects of the cold snap have also damaged maturing varieties in the fields, leading to a UK cauliflower shortage in the lead up to Christmas."

She added that, for other crop sectors, the effect of the freezing temperatures has been less severe but nonetheless difficult.

In soft fruit the extremely low temperatures curtailed a UK season, both in field tunnels and unheated glasshouses, which could have lasted until Christmas had temperatures been milder.

She also said that, although the majority of potato crops are now safely in store, there remain some areas of the north and east of the UK where potatoes remain in the ground.

"Potato growers with crops in this situation will be concerned not only by the potential crop loss, but also the likely impact on soil condition for next spring as winter ploughing is delayed."

Most protected crops growers are in between seasonal crops so there is no real impact, other than burning extra gas for frost protection inside glasshouses.

However most businesses will shortly receive next season’s plants and early establishment phase is critical for plant development.

"Some crops such as round lettuce are grown year round in glasshouses, so long periods of sub zero temperatures, can be extremely costly in terms of heating."

"Poor light levels on cold, dull days will slow plant growth and can result in unbalanced and uneven growth."

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