Growers are increasingly taking land out of production to revamp ageing and inefficient drainage systems as a result of desperately low commodity prices, according to UK drainage company Cotterill Civils.
Extremely wet conditions endured in recent seasons has also driven growers to decide to rest land and instead invest in land drainage to maximise crop yields once prices return.
A survey of 400 farmers conducted at this year’s Cereals event revealed 65% had invested in land drainage over the past five years, with 54% planning to do so over the next year.
James Startin, the owner of Startin Farms in Staffordshire, has decided now is the time to overhaul drainage systems across his acreage.
“If land has to be taken out of production to carry out maintenance such as drainage, it makes sense to do this when potential returns are at their lowest rather than when they are good.
“Bitter as it may seem to carry out capital schemes in the current climate, but the long-term investment associated with a drainage scheme will pay off over a 30-year period and prove itself more than worth its cost.”
Mr Startin is not alone in his thinking.
David Jones farms 1,150ha as part of a family partnership at Hatton Bank Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon.
He says well-drained land can make the difference between a good and bad crop.
“A poor crop costs just as much to grow as a good crop.
“We’ve managed to improve and maintain good soil structure by ensuring our land is well drained.”
The survey also discovered 63% had seen a significant impact on their yields as a result of installing a fresh land-drainage system.