Vegetables, fruit and cereals harvested in the wake of poor weather could be less healthy and less tasty as a result of the downpours and lack of sunshine, a leading scientist has said.
Levels of protein as well as iron, copper and zinc in food may have been affected, according to Professor Mike Gooding.
Professor Gooding, head of agricultural policy and development at Reading University said high rainfall could cause loss of nutrients in soil while lack of sunshine could hamper the development of sugars in produce.
He said: “There are some direct effects of things like high rainfall and also low sunshine on the content of produce, which would include vegetables but also cereals and fruit and orchard crops in ways that can be picked up by consumers.
“The nutrients available to the plant might well be reduced.
“We do know that rainfall, for example, will often cause leaching and loss of nutrients from the soil, and at certain times that will certainly reduce the amount of protein that ends up in the produce.
“Protein itself is related to a number of other nutrients that are important such as iron, copper and zinc.
“The other thing you get is that with prolonged overcast conditions, especially near the harvest, you’ll get reduced sugar and soluble carbohydrates in the product so that the actual taste of the fruit and veg will also change as you reduce the balance of sugars and starch and other nutrients that you have there.”
Professor Gooding said organic farmers may be less able to respond quickly to the loss of nutrients in soil than others who may be able to add “fertiliser from the bag and synthetic nutrients”.
But he added that the effect of the poor weather on fruit was unlikely to have a “dramatic effect” on the well-being of consumers.
In some instances, where the poor weather has resulted in a dramatically-reduced number of crops being produced, a reverse effect might take place for those that have survived.
“If yield goes down more than the nutrition and the nutrients, the concentration will actually go up.”