Fruit crops escape as flooding adds to woes

Flash floods compound difficult growing season but farmers expect trade-off in high-quality fruit.

Last week's flash floods over parts of the country do not appear to have worsened prospects for many crops already hit by poor weather.

Soft-fruit grower and NFU West Midlands Horticulture Board chairman Anthony Snell said: "We have never had irrigation reservoirs overflowing in late June before. The rain has washed away trackways on the farm, but fortunately there hasn't been much damage to fruit. All I can say is, thank goodness for tunnels."

This is just the latest challenge in what Snell described as a difficult growing season for horticulture in general. "The weather has added to costs and complexity and generally made the job harder," he said.

The cool weather has actually produced high-quality soft fruit, Snell added. "However, blackcurrants, which are just about to start, are looking very variable. The quality should be fine, especially if the weather brightens up, but it won't be a high-yielding year."

A National Association of Cider Makers representative said the downpours, having occurred between fruit set and harvesting, will not have a great impact on the cider apple crop.

Cool, wet weather has also benefited Kent grower Hugh Lowe Farms, sole supplier of strawberries to the Wimbledon tennis championships. Co-owner Marion Regan said. "It has meant a slower start to the season but that has suited the crop, which is now fantastic just in time for Wimbledon."

Wimbledon strawberries Certified supply

Around 28 tonnes of strawberries are consumed each year at the Wimbledon tennis tournament and for the past 12 years these have been LEAF Marque-certified.

Hugh Lowe Farms co-owner Marion Regan said LEAF's integrated farm management programme enables the farm to maintain biodiversity while producing top-quality fruit.

"Maximising our resources not only makes sense from an environmental point of view but it also makes sound business sense, helping us to be more efficient, reduce waste and improve our profit margins," she added.

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