FARMER FOCUS: Think again about flood management

Flooding is probably at the forefront of most people’s minds at the moment, with some horrendous scenes on TV for all to see. I do not have a solution for high tides and coastal flooding except the continued investment in sea defences.

Inland though, some of the solutions are not rocket science. This farm – like many others, I suspect – has ditches on it. They were put there to drain water away from our land. They also help take water away from our neighbour’s land. To keep this amazing phenomenon working we clean the ditches out. If someone along the line doesn’t clean the ditches out, the water backs up and the land floods. To my mind this is keeping the land in “good agricultural and environmental condition” and so should be a cross-compliance issue.

Beyond us, our ditches drain into a river that should take all the water away to the sea. Once upon a time the river used to be dredged so it could deal with the increase in the volume of water. This doesn’t happen any more and so we end up being flooded. There are probably some strong environmental reasons why the rivers aren’t dredged anymore, but the balance of what is saved in the river is offset by the huge damage being done to farmland habitats. I am encouraged to see that some work is now being considered by the Environment Agency to keep waterways clear.

Normally thoughts turn to fertiliser applications in February. Given the current weather and soil conditions, I can’t see any early nitrogen being applied to anything unless the taps are turned off now. The barley is really the only crop that looks as if it could do with a feed at the moment. Soil mineral nitrogen results will be interesting to see this year.

By the time this is read we should have had a trouble-free excursion to Lamma in its new location. I have waited years for a new, quick road to Newark, only for the show to be moved once it opened.

Jon Parker manages 1,500ha, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, on a medium to heavy land, for Ragley Home Farms, predominantly arable growing wheat, oilseed rape, and salad onions. There is also a beef fattening unit and sheep flock.

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