National Farmers' Union president, Peter Kendall, says extreme weather driven by climate change is the biggest threat to British farming and its ability to feed the nation's growing population. Photo: Pagepix Ltd / NFU

By Damian Carrington   
28 July 2013

(The Guardian) – Extreme weather being driven by climate change is the biggest threat to British farming and its ability to feed the nation's growing population, according to Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union.

His comments, in an interview with the Guardian, come after a week of intense weather extremes. Last Monday, west London experienced the hottest day for seven years, while on Tuesday the drought in many parts of the country came to an end with intense thunderstorms that brought almost a month of rain in a day to parts of Worcestershire. Torrential downpours also put a dampener on the first weekend of the school summer holidays, with flash-flooding in parts of the south-east and the Midlands.

"The biggest uncertainty for UK agriculture is extreme weather events," said Kendall, who grows wheat and barley on the 250-hectare (620 acre) farm in Bedfordshire he runs with his brother. "I sometimes have a pop at those who say climate change is going to help farming in northern Europe.

"A gentle increase in temperature is fine but extreme weather events completely stuffs farming: just look at last year. Farming is risky enough as it is."

Erratic swings from floods to heatwaves and drought in recent years have seen many harvests devastated. The UK went from being an exporter of wheat to becoming an importer in 2013. Scientists are clear that climate change is increasing extreme weather both in the UK and around the world.

But Kendall said that further risks lay in Europe cutting itself off from the technologies needed to deal with extreme heatwaves, floods and storms by banning pesticides and genetically modified crops, and he argued that land should not be taken out of production to help wildlife.

"Another enormous uncertainty is, because we are a part of the rich northern European block, that we actually cut ourselves off from the technology that we need to manage those extreme weather events," Kendall said.

"Last summer was just a deluge and plant protection products [pesticides] were incredibly important to us even maintaining a pretty poor harvest: without them, there would have been nothing. When you have rain after rain after rain, the level of disease that grew up within the crop was absolutely out of this world." [more]

NFU claims extreme weather poses biggest threat to British farming



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