Farmers up and down the country experienced a welcomed heatwave this spring after a wet winter left the majority of the country under water – but the tables have turned and many farmers are now crying out for rain.

The drier weather has allowed spring sowing and other field operations to continue largely uninterrupted, which has resulted in early crop planting, with some farmers managing to get up to a month ahead of normal sowing operations.

Winter oilseed rape is now reaping the benefits of the warmer weather as it bursts into bloom, but with the majority of spring sown crop now in the ground and soil temperatures rising, the most welcomed addition would be moisture, in the form of heavy rainfall.

Arable farmers in the east are particularly feeling the strain of no rain, with open soil structures unsuited to prolonged dry periods at this time.

Potato and vegetable farmer, Philip Benzie, of Gairnieston Farm, Turriff, commented: "We have never been so far ahead in our spring work this year and we haven't lost a day's planting since the end of March.

"We grow half our acreage in Morayshire and there's hardly been any rain since we planted it in early April, resulting in us getting rather concerned about the moisture levels.

"We are about to start drilling the rest of our main crop carrots but we are concerned about the dry conditions, which will affect germination of the carrots.

"We've complete drilling in Aberdeenshire and at the beginning of the week we received 10ml of rainfall, which will help crop establishment,” he said.

"However, the dry weather is only one of the challenges farmers face in these unprecedented times," he concluded.

Similarly, Sandy Norrie, of Duncan Farms, Turriff, who manages 6000 acres of mixed cropping, is also feeling the pressure, however is using the opportunity to trial a different approach to managing the less than ideal conditions.

“The crop struggling the most with the dry conditions is spring barley, mainly because it’s had no adequate volume of moisture since establishment, whereas the winter cereals called on their reserves of moisture received at the end of last year, but they too, now need a ‘drink’,” Sandy said.

“The silty soil we have sometimes struggles to retain moisture very well, so we’re needing a few days of rain, alongside some damp nights. So far, for almost the whole of this month, the constant wind combined with the dry atmosphere, has represented a double dunt for the crops.”

Whilst conditions are not ideal, Sandy said he had taken the opportunity to trial biostimulants on the more stressed crops.

“I’m trialling 500 acres of a mixture of crops that have been bearing the brunt of the drier weather. The amino acids within them are supposed to relieve stress throughout demanding growth spells, so we will wait and see how they fare against the untreated crop,” Sandy added.

“A positive aspect of the dry weather is that there’s very little disease around that you’d normally see at this time of year.

"The weather has also brought the oilseed rape into flower quicker, which reduces the pressure of pollen beetle attacks.

"Also, we were behind in some of our operations due to the wet weather, but we’ve made a comeback and are now ahead of the game.”

Potato and cereal farmer, Graeme Smith, Netherton Farms, Aberdeenshire, agreed that rain would freshen up all crops in the ground and that both winter and spring barley had been under pressure this springtime.

Over in Inverurie, Stuart Stephen, from Lower Thorneybank, farms just over 700 acres in total, consisting of spring barley, cabbage, beetroot, cauliflower and broccoli. He, too, expressed concern about the drier conditions.

“This is the driest spring we’ve had for a while, however the crop is bearing up ok considering the conditions are so dry,” he said.

“This time last year we had only finished sowing on April 30, but we’ve managed that three weeks ahead this year because of the favourable conditions.

“We’ve also been able to put on fertiliser, which has helped some of the crop, but nothing beats a shower of rain to just give that extra boost to the crop.

“We have been particularly lucky as we work on free draining, medium loam ground, so it does retain a wee bit of moisture and we were forecasted to get some showers later this the week,” Stuart commented.

Moving down the coast to East Lothian, Drem-based farmer, Haig Hamilton, West Fortune, grows a variety of crops, including winter barley, oilseed rape, winter wheat, spring barley and potatoes, and has been experiencing some issues with later sown cereal crop.

"All the early sown wheat is looking good this year” he said. “However, the later sown cereals haven’t got a good root structure in place due to the wet winter and are now struggling for moisture," he said.

“We work on a medium loam, varying from light sandy soil to heavy soils. The later sown winter wheat and spring barley on heavier ground is struggling with the very dry conditions and is showing signs of stress.

“The spring barley, which is on light ground, is looking good, whereas anything on heavier soil hasn’t germinated as well as it could have.

“There are farmers in East Lothian irrigating spring barley and winter wheat as there is no rain forecast. If farmers and crop don't get any rain forecast within the next 10 days, then there is the potential for yield sacrifices," stated Haig.