1. ITV Report

Dry weather is a double-edged sword for region's farmers

Watch Tanya Mercer's report.

The driest winter in more than a decade across the Anglia region is putting farm crops at risk.

It has been two weeks since our last significant rainfall and some farmers say they have had to start irrigation early.

It comes as the Suffolk Wildlife Trust warned people over the dangers of using barbecues on dry heathland following a heath fire at Gunton Warren near Lowestoft over the weekend.

A heathland fire in Suffolk this weekend.

At the Euston Estate, near Thetford, the warm weather has made this a good spring for planting crops. But the warm dry weather is a double-edged sword. There has been than five inches of rain there in the last five months - and that has put their water supply in a vulnerable position.

Estate Director Andrew Blankiron says he can only remember two occasions over the last 10 years when irrigation began in March.

"It's very unusual the fact that the soil moisture deficit is so high at this point. We're stepping up from the 88 acres we're irrigating this week and we'll probably be heading towards 200 acres next week if we don't get some rain."

– Andrew Blankiron, Euston Estate Director.
Irrigation has started early at the Euston Estate on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

The last nine months have been the second driest on record with just 61% of average rainfall. With the added increase in temperatures, soil has become particularly dry and river levels are falling.

There could also be long-term implications too. If we get low rainfall and river levels continue as they are, farmers will be restricted from taking water supplies to irrigate the land.

If we don't get another wet winter and have another dry winter, then next year, in 2018, then we might be facing a much more sever situation.

– Rob Wise, National Farmers' Union.

The dry weather has already caused small heathland fires in parts of Suffolk over the past few days.

Although not uncommon, they are unusual so early in the years.

It has prompted the fire service to remind people of the dangers.

"Prevention is always better than cure. With mobile barbecues and disposal barbecues, the first thing to consider is are you siting it in the right location? Are you using it in a wooded area? An area that is tinder dry? Have you got enough water with you to extinguish it?"

– Richard Herrell, Norfolk Fire Service.