South East Water is supporting land managers in improving nitrogen use efficiency through a number of funded initiatives, including cover crops.
The water company shared the advice and funding on offer to farmers in priority catchments through a series of farmer meetings this spring.
One such event was held at Folly Farm, Hampshire and featured arable soil farmer of the year 2022, David Miller who showcased how cover crops can help reduce nitrate leaching.
Mr Miller also shared the learnings from water company funded trials in partnership with FWAG South East and NIAB, through his involvement in the AHDB Strategic Farms programme. .
Hear from the experts
Hear about the findings of the trial in the video interview with Mr Miller, Mark Slater, South East Water catchment advisor and Belinda Brown from FWAG South East:
What are the trials showing?
According to Mr Slater, the results from Folly Farm have informed South East Water’s Capital Grants Scheme since 2018 to help protect the local chalk aquifer from nitrate leaching.
“In the Woodgarston catchment (west of Basingstoke, Hampshire) alone, more than 1,000 hectares of land has been protected by cover crops over the last three winters; with an estimated saving of 48.8 tonnes of nitrate,” he said.
Cover crop benefits
Mr Slater added that there are numerous benefits of cover cropping for farmers and water companies.
“Farmers can reap the rewards of a whole host of benefits, including increased soil health and nitrate retention, while as a water company we benefit from reduced leaching, which supporting raw water quality improvements.”
For example, the trials at Folly Farm specifically have demonstrated potential capture of up to 100kg N/ha from green tissue
“Other benefits include an increase in natural predators, fungi and earthworms, which in turn equate to better nutrient cycling, pest and disease resilience and water infiltration,” said Mr Slater.
Support and funding on offer from South East Water
Mr Slater explained that it is vital for water companies to work in close partnership with local farmers to provide solutions that not only protect water quality and the environment, but also enhance farm profitability.
“This is why we developed the Capital Grants Scheme, a funding programme that offers farmers up to £20,000 for a variety of infrastructure and land management solutions, such as rainwater harvesting, cover crops or biofilters, to name a few,” added Mr Slater.
How to apply
South East Water advise you to contact them before applying so please visit the catchment management page of their website to get in touch with a member of their team.
Find out more here