04:15AM, Wednesday 29 February 2012
Drought across the South-east could cause a crop crisis affecting the livelihood of farmers in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Berkshire was declared officially in drought last week after low rainfall for the second winter running.
The announcement made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has left farmers concerned that crop yields could be lower again this year.
Paul Rinder, whose family have owned Stroud Farm in Holyport for more than 60 years, said: "Many of the arable farms in this area grow crops like haylage and wheat which rely on rainfall.
"You can't get a licence to irrigate crops like that during a drought, so low rainfall has huge implications for us.
"We also sell excess haylage to the horse trade. Although the dry weather won't affect us until later in the spring, we need rain soon to help us replenish our stocks. Farmers often reply of surplus to make a living."
The South-east experienced the driest four-month period from October to January since 1992 after only receiving 73 per cent of the expected rainfall.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Colin Rayner (Con, Horton and Wraysbury) farms about 2,500 acres within the borough.
He said he has been forced to fertilise his land early which will bring the harvest forward to the start of July.
"We tried to work it around the Olympics this year so that our agricultural vehicles won't have to travel during the Olympic traffic," he said.
"But now our best laid plans have gone to waste as the harvest will have to be moved forward."
Crops are usually sold in advance of the harvest but Cllr Rayner said he has reduced forward selling this year as the yield may be lower than expected.
Water companies are also encouraging residents to take measures to avoid wasting water. South East Water said last week a hosepipe ban may be necessary is the situation does not improve.
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