Harvest Nears Completion
The recent spell of dry weather has allowed most farmers to crack on with harvest and, in many cases, all is safely gathered in. The rain at the end of July and early August delayed progress but high pressure returned just in time. Reports have been mixed with some wheats with low specific weight due to lack of sunshine to fill the grain. However, others have been much better whilst there are reports of excellent spring barley crops where they remained standing but, where flattened by heavy rain, yields and quality were adversely impacted.
Supermarkets and other retailers have warned of shortages of food and other products this autumn with one Chairman describing the situation as the worst he has known. The cause is largely a shortage of labour, not least of lorry drivers to deliver goods around the country. The impact of Brexit, leading to far fewer migrant workers, exacerbated by Covid, especially the enforced self-isolation of contacts, has resulted in labour shortages in all areas. In terms of the food supply chain, this is just as critical for harvest workers for fruit and vegetables and workers in abattoirs and food processors as it is in transport.
Following the successful reintroduction of beavers on the River Otter in Devon, Defra has issues a consultation on further releases throughout England. Licences for reintroduction would have to be obtained and the main focus of the consultation is the criteria by which any application should be judged, including environmental assessments on surrounding land.
Gene Editing Trial
Defra has approved a field trial to be held at Rothamsted Research of gene edited wheat. Wheat contains a natural amino acid, asparagine, which is turned into acrylamide when bread is baked or toasted. Acrylamide has been found to cause cancer in rats and mice and is thought to be carcinogenic in humans. The trial involves wheat plants, the genes of which have been edited to reduce substantially the level of asparagine. It is an important step towards gene editing becoming more widely accepted in this country, if not the European Union.