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Heatwave is killing off Christmas trees

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The hot weather crop crisis! Christmas trees and peas are hit by the UK heatwave with 10,000 pines killed off so far while bizarre mini-tornadoes known as dust-devils pop up

  • Christmas tree farmer Rob Morgan from Wales said a third of his plants have been ruined by the hot weather
  • Met Office forecasters predict warm temperatures of up to 87F will continue but rain is expected tomorrow
  • Comes after experts warn of pea crop crisis and as alarming mini-tornadoes have been spotted in Cardiff  

By Katie French For Mailonline

Published: 10:00 EDT, 12 July 2018 | Updated: 10:21 EDT, 12 July 2018

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The heatwave has caused a crisis with pea crops and Christmas tree plantations with 10,000 pines killed off so far.

Meanwhile mini-tornadoes known as dust-devils left workers open-mouthed in Cardiff when they tore through a construction site earlier today.  

This comes as Britain is basking in its hottest summer since 1976 with the warm temperatures showing no signs of tailing off.

However the Met Office is forecasting showers in Wales, southwest and northwest England tonight before thundery downpours move in tomorrow.

Alarming: Ground worker Lewis Evans recorded the moment a mini-tornado or a 'dust devil' ripped through their construction site in Radyr, Wales 
Alarming: Ground worker Lewis Evans recorded the moment a mini-tornado or a 'dust devil' ripped through their construction site in Radyr, Wales 

Alarming: Ground worker Lewis Evans recorded the moment a mini-tornado or a 'dust devil' ripped through their construction site in Radyr, Wales 

Christmas is cancelled! Festive farmer Rob Morgan said up to a third of his plants have been ruined due to the scorching weather
Christmas is cancelled! Festive farmer Rob Morgan said up to a third of his plants have been ruined due to the scorching weather

Christmas is cancelled! Festive farmer Rob Morgan said up to a third of his plants have been ruined due to the scorching weather

This will be welcomed news for gardeners and farmers who are nursing scorched brown fields and backyards following the epic heatwave.

A spokesman for The Met said: 'Showers will ease in Wales and the southwest during the evening but probably continue overnight across parts of northwest England. Most of the UK will have another dry night.

'Tomorrow will be warm and sunny across much of the UK. However, there are likely to be some heavy or thundery showers, mainly in Wales and central southern England.

'The weekend will be windier and wetter in the far northwest but mostly dry and very warm elsewhere. A few showers in the southeast will become more widespread on Monday.'

Festive tree farmer Rob Morgan said a third of his trees have been devastated by the hot weather, which has already ruined Christmas for him.  

Crops destroyed: August and September is usually a prime time for picking but many growers are likely to harvest produce earlier rather than risk further heat damage
Crops destroyed: August and September is usually a prime time for picking but many growers are likely to harvest produce earlier rather than risk further heat damage

Crops destroyed: August and September is usually a prime time for picking but many growers are likely to harvest produce earlier rather than risk further heat damage

Mr Morgan, who has supplied Downing Street with a festive tree in the past, plants 30,000 Christmas trees a year.   

He imports the seeds from Canada before going to a plant nursery for four years and then plants them in the ground to mature for a further eight years.

He sells 15,000 trees a year from his farm at Three Crosses near Swansea and said: 'The new tender shoots just get burned off in the fierce heat of the sun. They are just burning off before they get a chance.'

What is a 'dust devil'?  

Although they are known by many different names across the world, dust mdevils are an upward spiralling dust-filled vortex of air that can vary in height from a few feet to more than 1,000 feet.

They are usually several metres in diameter at the base, then narrower in the middle before expanding at the top.

They mainly occur in desert and semi arid areas where the ground is dry and high surface temperatures produce strong updrafts.

Unlike tornadoes, dust devils grow upwards from the ground rather than down from the clouds. They only last a few minutes because cool air is sucked into the base of the rising vortex, cooling the ground and cutting off its heat supply.

In Aboriginal myths, they represent spirit forms. Children were warned of a spirit that would emerge from the spinning vortex if they behaved badly.

And in indigenous America, the Navajo believed they were ghosts or spirits of the dead called Chiindii. Spinning clockwise they are good spirits, and counter-clockwise, bad.

 

Older trees on the farm have deeper roots and are able to withstand drier conditions.

Mr Morgan added: 'I will have to double my production and planting next year and will have to take the hit.

'I'll be doing a rain dance tonight and every night until the rain comes. I'll be a very happy man when it eventually arrives.'

Workers were left awestruck after witnessing what they described as a 'mini-tornado' sweeping through a building site in Cardiff.

Ground worker Lewis Evans said he and his colleagues spotted the rare phenomenon while working at a housing development on Llantrisant Road in Radyr on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old said conditions on the site were warm and not particularly windy until the twister started to form. 

He said it lasted about five minutes, picking up large sections of insulation and dust and throwing it around the site. 

Lewis recorded video of the twister on his phone. He said the debris that can be seen floating in the wind is mainly made up of pieces of insulation. 

Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said the video appears to show what is known as a 'dust devil', which forms at ground level as air rises and starts to rotate in a column. He said they are different from funnel clouds which form at cloud level and work their way to the ground.

Mr Madge said: 'This video shows that dust devils can form quite easily in the UK when you have the right conditions.

'The heating of the ground causes air to rise which can form into a spiralling column of air.

'Although they usually only rise to a few feet, they can grow much larger.'But even smaller dust devils have the potential to lift lightweight objects and dust into the air.' 

The heat and lack of water is killing the growth of pea pods. This means fewer pods and smaller peas as they do not have enough water to grow to maturity.

And the climate is also providing the perfect breeding ground for specific types of bug such as the pea moth and bruchid beetle which feed on both peas and beans at this time of year.

Around 30 per cent of the season's picking has already taken place but experts warned that predicted rain would not be enough to rescue this year's harvest.

Ground worker Lewis Evans said he and his colleagues spotted the rare phenomenon while working at a housing development on Llantrisant Road in Radyr on Tuesday
Ground worker Lewis Evans said he and his colleagues spotted the rare phenomenon while working at a housing development on Llantrisant Road in Radyr on Tuesday
Mr Evans recorded video of the twister on his phone. He said the debris that can be seen floating in the wind is mainly made up of pieces of insulation
Mr Evans recorded video of the twister on his phone. He said the debris that can be seen floating in the wind is mainly made up of pieces of insulation

Up, up and away! Ground worker Lewis Evans said he and his colleagues spotted the rare phenomenon while working at a housing development on Llantrisant Road in Radyr on Tuesday 

August and September is usually a prime time for picking but many growers are likely to harvest them earlier rather than risk further heat damage.

Other crops and pulses could face problems though peas, including the marrowfat and split green varieties, are thought to be the most widely affected, industry chiefs told trade journal The Grocer.

Franek Smith, president of the British Edible Pulses Association, said: 'Though the life cycle of the plant means they die in the field and dry out before harvest, the hot weather is forcing them to die before they reach maturity.

'The peas have only just formed in their pods, so stopping growth now means there are fewer and smaller peas in the pods depreciating value of the yield.

'The number of pods is also reduced as top flowers have aborted production due to hot, dry weather.'

Although the imminent arrival of Storm Chris will give the fields a much needed soaking, it may not be enough to reverse the effects of the dry and hot weather of the last few weeks.

Stephen Francis, MD of frozen supplier Fen Peas, told The Grocer: 'It's too late to rescue a lot of our peas, they overexerted themselves searching for water that's not there.

'All of our locations are harvesting below average. If we have rainfall now it wouldn't be able to reverse the effects.'

However, there has been one side effect. The smaller garden peas and petits pois being produced are said to be of a higher quality and better tasting than normal because of the extra sunshine.

 

 

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By Shawn Arnette 12/07/2018 10:21:00