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Lack of rainfall holds back grass growth in some regions

Thursday, 14 May 2020

By Felicity Rusk

After a sluggish start to the growing season, grass growth has since been more positive. In the week ending 7 May, the grass growth across GB averaged 64.8kg DM ha, according to our Forage for Knowledge programme. This put growth rates around 10% about above the long-term average (2010-19). Although, this is slightly below the same point last year (-5%).

However, more recent weeks have recorded considerable variations across regions. In the week ending 7 May, there was a difference of 71 kg DM/ha noted between the highest and lowest rate recorded.

Cooler temperatures in northern areas have limited grass growth in some parts. Meanwhile, low soil moisture levels in some southern and lowland areas has also restricted grass growth. Nevertheless, reports suggest that first cuts of silage are starting to get underway.

According to the Met Office, April 2020 received only 40% of long-term average for rainfall. Of which, the majority fell on the last couple of days. Meanwhile, April received on 151% of the average sunshine hours, making it the sunniest April on record (1929).

Looking ahead, the long-term seasonal forecast from the EU Commission suggests the warmer, drier weather will continue into the summer months. Temperatures in the UK could be slightly warmer than normal, particularly in the southern regions. Meanwhile, rainfall could be lower than average, again particularly affecting the southern regions.

If realised, lower soil moistures may continue to limit potential grass growth in the coming months. However, the forecasts suggest the warmer and drier weather are within the ‘normal’ variation. As such, it is unlikely that we will see a repeat of the forage shortage experienced in the summer of 2018.

Felicity Rusk

Analyst - Dairy & Livestock

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