These satellite images show how the 2018 heat wave took its toll on vegetation in northern Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. The first image shows how green the vegetation looked on 30 June 2018 and how it appeared dry and brown around two weeks later, on 19 July 2018. Photo: NBCU News Group

By Rachel Elbaum
1 August 2018

LONDON (NBC News) – Brown is the color of summer in northern Europe this year.

Fields that are usually covered in lush green grass have now turned to dust, trees are shedding their leaves and animals eating dry hay or grain instead of grazing in pastures.

Farmers in around a dozen countries — from Ireland to the Baltics — are grappling with a once-in-a-generation drought. The unrelenting heat wave has devastated crops, with more than half of the harvest expected to be lost in some areas.

"I have never seen this type of hot and dry weather, and I've been farming over 30 years," Max Schulman told NBC News from his farm about 35 miles outside of Helsinki, where he grows beans, oats, wheat and oilseeds.

Schulman says his farm has received just 3 inches of rain since the end of April, compared with 10 to 14 inches most years.

In many areas, the scale of the damage is not yet known as harvests have not been completed.

However, some of the crops hit by the drought include:

  • Onions and carrots: U.K. growers expect losses of 30 to 40 percent for carrots and at least 25 percent for onions.
  • Potatoes: At least 25 percent of Germany's harvest is likely to be affected.
  • Corn: Around 60 percent has been destroyed in the Netherlands.
  • Cereals like wheat, barley and oats: At least 35 percent of the harvest has been lost in Sweden.

The drought has hit Denmark particularly hard, with the spring harvest of grains and vegetables down 40 to 50 percent, according to Troels Toft, an official with the Danish Agriculture and Food Council. He estimates that the losses will cost the country's farming industry around $944 million.

"We haven't seen anything like this for the last 150 years or so," he said. "When you drive around Denmark it's not the country we are used to seeing. Some farmers will go bankrupt, that's for sure. If you had problems before the drought then this can be the push over the edge."

Farming associations across northern Europe are turning to their governments and to the E.U. for support, including in Germany, an economic powerhouse where losses are expected to top $1.1 billion. [more]

DevDevastating drought, heat wave hammer farmers across northern Europe

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