Monday, 27 June 2011

Keeping H2O Low with LEAF

Last thursday I had a brilliant day with other members of the Carling Wester Growers Group at a special training day organised by LEAF  The training day was to bring to our attention the impact of water on our farms and how much we rely on this precious resource.  The aim of the day was to raise awarness of water and how it impacts our business and what we can do to try and reduce its impact.  In my farming career I have witnessed both ends of the scale when it comes to water impact.  On the 20th July 2007 we had over 140mm of rain in 24 hours and this spring (Mar-May) we only had 53mm of rain.  The discussion, lead by Caroline Drummond, from LEAF, Louise Manning (LJM Associates) and Andrew Galloway (Masstock Arable (UK) Ltd soon had us discussing in depth, the problems of too much or too little water and its effects on our livestock, crops and the environment.  We discussed how to keep water in the fields, by using minimum tillage to keep trash on the surface to slow down the run-off and reduce risk.  Correctly cultivating the fields allows water to slowly seep into the soil, hard compacted layers mean the water can't soak in and rushes off the surface taking fertiliser, soil particles and pesticides with it into the nearest watercourse.  We spoke about ways to reduce these risks, buffer strips to intercept running water, tramline placement, gate placement, stock watering areas and a whole list of other options available.  Some of these options can be put towards Stewardship Schemes or will count towards the Campaign for the Farmed Environment

We looked at weather data, demonstarting how our climate is changing, with reduced sunshine hours and increased volitility in rain fall events.  We listened to Louise talking about her trips to California where they are running out of groundwater and what's left is becoming saline.  Peru and other countries are going to run out of water (in some areas) in the next 30 years or so.  Countries exporting salad crops, potatoes and vegetables are in effect exporting water and what impact will this have in the future?

After a great walk around the farm looking at sprayer technology, machinery, irrigation we ended up with a spade in a barley field.  The idea was to dig down and try and find any problems with the soil structure that might hinder roots or water from getting into the soil, alais we found none. (Well done Ed).

The next stage of our training is to have a go at the LEAF Water Management Tool, an on-line assessment that looks at: water distrubution around the farm, irrigation, crop protection products, cleaning and transport of product, protecting water quality and domestic water facilities.  Following on from this we will be meeting again, after harvest, to find out how we have all got on, and what changes we have made to our business' as a result of the training.

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