The dry spring has given way recently to a spell of wet weather that was badly needed to soak the parched land and get grass growing again, but has disrupted silage making. That's hardly a disaster, as contractors with their massive equipment can cover a lot of ground between showers when things dry up.

One of the great things about making silage as opposed to hay is that at least you can be fairly sure of ending up with edible, nutritious winter feed in most years.

Mind you, given the choice I would prefer to have well-won hay. Livestock find good hay, particularly that which has been made in June without a drop of rain falling on it, as irresistible as I find a plate of tatties and mince. It has the sweet fragrance of summer goodness and by the way animals gobble it up it clearly tastes better than acidic silage. Even sick animals that have gone off their food are tempted to eat it.

Loading article content

Sadly such hay is scarce and often as not a typical wet Scottish summer yields weathered or mouldy fodder that has little or no feed value. Little wonder most Scottish livestock farmers switched to making silage.

It seems to me that many years of my life have brought weather different from anything which I had previously experienced.

The weather is the warp in the loom of a farmer's life. It is his livelihood, his pleasure, his friend, his enemy, and as a consequence, his continuous study.

Isn't it strange that there seems to be a snag with most of the world's natural things. Nuts have shells, brambles have thorns, plums have stones, fish have bones - the catalogue is endless - so why can't it stay dry at this time of year until the silage and hay are safely gathered in? Even better, why doesn't it only rain at night for the rest of the year?

Having spent a lifetime cursing our wet Scottish climate I have to concede that so much water is also a blessing. I have travelled widely, often to arid parts of the world, and on my return always appreciate the beauty of our verdant British Isles. I would dread having to farm in those parts of the world where prolonged droughts regularly lead to crop failures, livestock deaths and widespread famine.

Water is truly the source of life. We can go for days and even weeks without food, but can die in a matter of days without water.

Water is set to become an increasingly scarce resource in the future. Agriculture is a major user of both ground and surface water for irrigation - accounting for about 70 per cent of water use worldwide. Here in the Europe we use, on average 44 per cent of our water consumption for agriculture.

Modern irrigation practices can help improve crop production and yields. Unfortunately, irrigation also causes excessive water depletion from waterways and aquifers, and can cause erosion and soil degradation.

The Water Framework Directive requires that Scotland, along with the rest of the EU, must maintain water flows within rivers and burns at a standard that ensure "good ecological status". As a result, Scotland, like many other countries, has a system of licensing water abstraction for irrigation.

Research from the Centre of Expertise for Water at the James Hutton Institute suggested that by 2050, the effects of climate change in Scotland and an increase in the growing of crops with high water demand (in part due to their suitability in a warmer climate), will lead to localised problems.

These problems are likeliest to be greatest in small catchments in the east of Scotland, where there are shorter rivers that have their source away from the higher rainfall areas in the west.

In order to reduce the risk of water stress in the high-value crops of these areas, the research recommends that farmers take action such as building water storage, installing drip irrigation and planting water-efficient and drought-resistant crops.

Yes, water is becoming increasingly precious - even here in Scotland - and in this year's unusually dry spring some Scottish farmers resorted to irrigating their spring-sown cereals to get them to germinate and grow.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, nearly half of the world's population could be living under severe water stress by 2050. There is now a pressing need for farmers around the world to reduce water consumption and develop sustainable practices.

Having said all that, most of us will be praying for good weather at the Royal Highland Show that starts its four-day run this Thursday.