Farmer Focus: Drainage, ditches and depleted funds

The winter routine is now in full swing as the land is now very wet and most of the stock are housed.

Winter crops are coping in the wet conditions reasonably well but there was very little chance of finishing the autumn spraying before Christmas, so we will have to wait and see what the new year brings us, weather wise.

Any of 2020’s drain repairs, new drainage projects and cleaned out ditches are now coming into their own. There is something very satisfying about watching water rush out of a new drain or steadily flow down a cleaned-out ditch.

See also: 7 ways to flood-proof soils and improve drainage

We, as farmers, do what we can within our boundaries to help water to infiltrate into the land, then directing its way through an appropriate drainage channel, eventually making its way into a ditch – only for the ditch to be blocked further down the parish.

As local authority funds are depleted nationwide, ditch cleaning seems very low down the list of priorities.

In addition to this, the intention seems to be to keep as much water as possible on the land to protect homes and businesses. Therefore, I can not see any help with drainage schemes coming our way in the future.

With this in mind, this may have to form the base of the new agricultural policy in the form of the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme. I see this as an opportunity to review our farm and only farm the productive areas that produce a positive gross margin. A lot of which comes down to soil type and the capability of the soil to handle water.    

We can then rest/improve these poorer areas of land with the new policy reform, ready for a time when we do need them to feed a hungry population.

For many, 2020 was a year to forget, for various reasons, but just like the children in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, we didn’t go round it or over it, we just went through it.

Let’s face it, if we could get through last year we can get through any year!

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