It’s with some real trepidation that I write this piece, for, while there’s one subject I really don’t want to mention, it’s also the only topic which this sector of the industry, no doubt along with all the others, is thinking about at the moment - the unremittingly wet weather.

And while a list of the rainfall statistics might confirm what we’ve all already sussed – that it’s been the longest continuous wet spell in living memory/since records began for most of Scotland’s arable heartlands, the information doesn’t actually do much to boost morale which is standing – or should I say lying, curled up in a foetal position – at an all time low.

Forecasts are always fickle things, but at the time of writing this week’s was set to be another mixed bag, with weather warnings issued for rain in the middle of the week. And while I was quite impressed by the fact that the fierce winds of last weekend had a good bash at drying out the very top layers of soil, getting caught out in one of the showers which were blowing about highlighted the fact that it didn’t take much to have water running down the open furrows once again.

So with the fields standing at saturation for so long it’s going to need a fair wee while for the ground to be dry enough to bear the weight of a tractor, meaning it looks like for yet another week there’s going to be precious little opportunity to break our duck by getting even a few acres drilled.

Opinions and conjectures

Delving a bit into what might lie behind this seemingly endless round of rainy days on the internet doesn’t really do much more than suck you down the inevitable rabbit holes which do nothing more than fire up the usual range of explanations, opinions and conjectures – some with some scientific basis, some that are just plain wacky – stretching from the inevitable impacts of anthropogenic climate change and global warming to the effects of under-water volcanic eruptions.

Our old friend the jet-stream which, as always seems to be the case, has been implicated as playing a major role in the shaping of our weather – and we’ve been sitting with it running below us for far too long, a situation which acts like a conveyor belt to bring belt after belt of rain over us.

Meteorologists say that this thin, fast flowing ribbon of air in the troposphere - about 6-7 miles above the Earth’s surface – is one of the major players in steering weather systems towards the UK. And a strong jet stream brings warm damp winds to the UK from the west, resulting in a warm and wet winter. And they tell us that fact that the combination of two factors – the warmer atmosphere being able to hold more moisture and the position of the jet stream has, in all probability played a major role in setting up the conveyor belt of rain during the wetter spells we’ve been encountering in recent years.

And it seems to be a pretty widespread opinion that there’s not likely to be any major change to the recurring pattern which we’ve been stuck in for some months now until either the jet stream weakens or moves substantially to the north of the UK.

El Niño

Some other sources believe that the weather phenomenon known as El Niño - which is generally credited as playing a major role in weather patterns in the southern hemisphere - has also had its thumb in the pie and that it too has been influencing our weather - as it can disrupt the trade winds globally, as well as the jet stream. Added to this, sea surface temperatures around much of Britain’s coastline have also been 2-3°C warmer than average, giving low pressure systems more energy and enabling greater rainfall totals.

And with El Niño being particularly strong this winter, it has contributed to milder and wetter conditions across the UK, as well as frequent areas of low pressure bringing rain, especially in the last three months.

But what of the under-sea volcanic eruption – where does that one fit into the equation of misery we’re currently in the middle of trying to work out?


Well, to be fair, it didn’t actually happen on our doorstep – and the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption actually occurred back in January 2022 – but thousands of miles away from us in the southern pacific, someplace to the east of Australia and north of New Zealand near the scattered islands of Tonga.

But, despite being far away, the eruption of this underwater volcano was actually the biggest atmospheric explosion ever recorded – several times bigger than the most powerful atomic bomb, and which might only have been rivalled by the eruption of Krakatoa back in 1883. But whereas the ash and vapours thrown up by Krakatoa – and the earlier eruption of Mt Tambora in 1815 - were believed to have led to poor summers and global cooling, Hunga-Tonga is believed to have had the opposite effect.

For, as it took place well below sea level, somewhere in the region of 146 million tonnes of water were thrown up into the atmosphere by the eruption – and that is well up with the column generated having been recorded 56 miles up into the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

And up at that distance the extra water vapour – with the eruption adding an estimated 10% to what was already up there in the stratosphere, actually acts as a powerful warming agent, adding to global warming. And it’s been estimated that the excess water vapour will remain there for 5-10 years - despite the fact that most of it seems to have been falling on us over recent months.

Tip of the iceberg

Of course these notions are just the tip of the iceberg (probably one of those that are calving off at an accelerated rate due to climate change) when it comes to the plethora of theories which are being put about for our current predicament.

But while it’s not easy to understand what’s been causing the most depressing spring weather ever, what I’m finding even more difficult to come to terms with is the fact that the market doesn't seem to have cottoned on to what’s going or taken any steps to address the predicament which the buyers of our grain could well be facing a few months down the line.

Okay, as the slap-in-the-face news of wheat being imported by a certain whisky manufacturer highlights, we know we operate in a global market. But with both the quantity and quality of UK wheat likely to be pretty poor - and with many around the country now wondering if it will be worth putting spring crops in the ground as we move significantly into ‘penalty time’ as far as yield is concerned - you might expect some reaction from buyers.

If they truly value the role which their advertising and publicity campaigns claim our efforts play in significantly underpinning the reputation of their product, surely they should be sending some signals to growers that they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is and shoulder some of the financial burden which will inevitably be associated with this year’s crop.

Time, some would say, for them to show some bottle and step up to the plate.