The UK has experienced its driest summer since 1911. This, of course, has consequences for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, and those consequences will remain visible well into 2023.
“It’s been a challenging season so far,” said Nigel Clare, director of Peloton Produce. “We are planting our cabbage crops for next spring, and the current conditions will definitely affect the quality and yield.”
Peloton Produce grows the cabbage in Lincolnshire on an area of over 800 hectares. Furthermore, the company’s crops also grow in Cornwall and Spain. The main customers are retailers and the food service.
“The cabbage crops looked good in early July, but they really suffered from the heat in the last two weeks of July. The temperature rose to 40.3 degrees. Now it seems that the worst is behind us.”
Rain has also fallen, but it was too much in too short a time span: 180 mm in six hours. “One day we plowed in the dust so that the soil would absorb the moisture better and the next day the plants suddenly swam in the water.”
The crop that is now planted for harvest in April and May next year goes into the ground under very dry conditions and actually a little late.
“Normally we finish planting in 10 to 15 days. Planting conditions will normally have an impact on yield and quality, as the plants are not tall and strong and may not survive a harsh winter. Although, of course, you never know, maybe we will have a mild winter and everything will be fine.”
Nigel says they won’t be able to take stock until the end of the season, but yields in June and July were 35% lower and quality was only half as good as normal. In combination with the sharply rising raw material costs, the production costs per kilo will therefore rise sharply.
“Nobody has had a good June or July. The future looks worrying. There are already growers who have withdrawn, fearing that the cultivation may not be profitable. First there was the pandemic, then Brexit and now extreme temperatures. To cover the rising cultivation costs, the retailers will have to pay us more.”
Nigel is considering investing in more irrigation, focusing on cultivation in June and July.
“We would like to have 10% of our acreage under irrigation, but it is difficult for growers to invest in times of low yields. Nevertheless, we must do it for future cultivation. We are also looking forward to technology to reduce labour demand.”
“It hasn’t all been negative. Certain broccoli and cauliflower varieties have done well, and the high daytime temperatures and lower night-time temperatures have provided dew that kept the plants alive. And there has been no oversupply this year, because normally the market is full, which leads to low prices,” Nigel concludes.