Water Industry News

Farmers Paid To Drill Cover Crops & Protect Water Resources

Utility company Severn Trent has been working with farmers across the region to protect soil health in areas facing high risk of nitrate water pollution, with growers being paid to drill cover crops to improve the soil.


According to Farmers Weekly, this scheme has become more flexible now than it was in the past, with one-year deals available that see farmers paid £95/ha. Other cover crop schemes include £120/h/year for five years, as well as a summer catch crop scheme that pays £95/ha/year. There’s a limit of £10,000 per year for each separate farm.


As well as paying farmers for growing cover crops, other initiatives include paying livestock farmers for fencing of waterways and paying for the creation of arable field margins.


One Herefordshire farmer, James Young, signed up for the one-year scheme and is now growing a five-species cover crop mix across 20ha of the lighter ground on his site.


As well as being financially rewarded for his work, Mr Young also enjoys the benefits of more friable and workable soils. The cover crops soak up valuable nutrients found in the soil and reduce nitrate leaching, while releasing nutrients back into the soil to help spring-sown crops flourish and grow.


This is, in fact, the first season that Mr Young has been paid for growing cover crops, with the one-year deal proving perfect for his farm rotation, as the 20ha stretch of land is the only part of the site eligible for the scheme.


Cover crops would have been grown here regardless of payment, but this additional support has meant he is able to grow a more diverse mix, including vetch and berseem clover, which fix nitrogen from the air, which will support the next actual crop.


The scheme itself has been open since March 2021, closing at the end of this month (January). Applications for drilling cover crops during summer 2023 will open in April this year.


How do cover crops protect water resources?


Cover crops are a really effective way of improving both soil and water quality. Agricultural practises can lead to runoff and erosion, as well as eutrophication (which is where increased levels of nutrients in the water lead to problems such as algal blooms and fish kills).


When cover crops are planted during the non-growing season (late autumn to early spring), it helps to keep soil in place, replenishes important nutrients and reduces water runoff into rivers and streams, as well as preventing phosphorus from entering waterways.


Other benefits include increased water infiltration, reduced soil erosion, increased soil organic carbon, improved weed control, the recycling of nutrients and improvements to the physical properties of the soil itself.


Would you like a water audit carried out across your site so you can see how best to save resources? Get in touch with SwitchWaterSupplier.com today to find out more.