PARCHED fields and no prospect of rain has led to devastation for some Island farmers — with many crops faring badly, irrigation fuel costs rising and reserves of water severely diminished.

The heat has caused more than a headache for many growers.

John Knox grows potatoes across his 250 acres at Shorwell and his hugely successful business has suffered so much this year, there is now nothing left he can do — he is out of water.

He supplies potatoes to McCains for McDonalds and has just finished this year's contract for KP Crisps for McCoys with the last load going out on Wednesday.

Isle of Wight County Press: Potatoes being harvested by John Knox Farms.

He said: "We have pretty much used all our irrigation water and our crops are down 15 to 20 per cent. There's nothing we can do, our reservoirs are empty. Any rain is welcome but it will come too late for us.

"Usually, through a season you will get some rain but we've not had significant rainfall since March, and that followed quite a dry winter.

"Fuel costs are now crazy so irrigating costs a lot. Last year we only irrigated once and this year six times."

He said prices of potatoes can't go up, because people won't buy them and the yield will then go to waste.

Isle of Wight County Press: John Knox Farms harvesting potatoes this week.John Knox Farms harvesting potatoes this week.

Another problem is that the crop harvester machines need damper conditions in which to work, so it is damaging some of the potatoes while it struggles to harvest through the dry earth.

This makes the potatoes harder to sell and causes more rejects.

John said: "75 per cent of my potato crop is grown on contract and leaves the Island. 25 per cent will remain on the Island to supply local shops and fish and chip shops throughout the year meaning I have been able to keep two to three full time employees all year round."

Over at Living Larder, they aren't so reliant on one crop, but grow between 40 to 50 across the year, which brings different challenges.

While the tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines are happily thriving during the dry spell, a lot of other products are stressed and not behaving as they should.

Will Steward, owner/manager of the family business, said: "It's been pretty tough. We've used half a million litres of water in July, the same amount we would use across a normal season.

"The cost of that is an additional 40 hours of labour a week by me, managing the irrigating on top of everything else that needs doing.

"We irrigate from our own pond so we are self-sufficient but the cost of the fuel driving the pump alone has cost us extra."

Isle of Wight County Press: Irrigation at Living Larder.Irrigation at Living Larder.

There will be a knock-on effect for the winter produce, which typically gets planted in the summer — they aren't getting off to the best start.

He said: "Farmers deal with weather conditions all the time and are quite adaptable but we just need a good amount of rain. Just two days of heavy rain would make a massive difference.

"Then we need the pond to fill back up to put us in a good place next year.

"Last time we got a water store this low was the early 1990s, so it's quite rare."

The situation is brighter over at the Garlic Farm — where the weather conditions are helping produce a yield of "exceptional quality".

Farmer Colin Boswell said the entire staff team were out harvesting this week.

Isle of Wight County Press: Harvesting at the Garlic Farm. From left, Barnaby Edwards, joint managing director, Feras Al O’Baidi, farm manager, Joanna Hambleton, field worker, and Natasha Edwards, joint managing director. Harvesting at the Garlic Farm. From left, Barnaby Edwards, joint managing director, Feras Al O’Baidi, farm manager, Joanna Hambleton, field worker, and Natasha Edwards, joint managing director.

He said: "I have been growing garlic for 50 years and never had what I could call a Mediterranean summer — even in 1976 it wasn't like this.

"We would have liked a bit more rain but you can't have everything.

"We can be grateful for the quality crop of garlic, the size is good and we've got rare heritage types of exceptional quality probably no-one else in the country is growing.

"We do want to see some rain though."