Arable News

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Help protect water quality

The potential detrimental effects of arable farming activities on water quality will be brought sharply into focus

The potential detrimental effects of arable farming activities on water quality will be brought sharply into focus as harvest draws to a close and farmers start establishing winter crops.

For many farmers, particularly on heavier soils, black-grass is an increasing problem and the widespread use of metaldehyde slug pellets and residual herbicides, particularly in oilseed rape, can lead to water contamination in many drinking water catchment areas.
With resistance to a number of cereal herbicides increasing, oilseed rape herbicides such as carbetamide and propyzamide are increasingly vital within rotations to fight pernicious grass weeds, especially black-grass. However, after metaldehyde, those two herbicides are two of the most commonly detected active ingredients in drinking water sources. Their presence poses problems for water companies and regulators as the UK strives to meet drinking water standards and the requirements of the WFD (Water Framework Directive).
With this in mind it is important that farmers, especially those in surface and groundwater Safeguard Zones across England, are particularly vigilant in their use of both metaldehyde and the herbicides mentioned above. The industry can ill-afford to see a blanket ban on these products, so it is in the interests of all concerned to take particular care when applying such products.
It is important that farmers, especially those in surface and groundwater Safeguard Zones across England, are vigilant in their use of both metaldehyde and OSR herbicides this autumn.
Having knowledge of local water quality issues is an important first step. A new initiative from the Environment Agency (EA) enables farmers, contractors and agronomists to find out if there is any risk to water quality from their field and yard activities. The online tool, developed to support the delivery of the Water Framework Directive is known as ‘What’s In Your Backyard’ (WIYBY) and it enables a search to be made, using a postcode, to give an indication of what state the water bodies around their land are in and whether farming is having an effect on them. The maps can be accessed via the Environment Agency website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby .
“Better understanding of local issues enables those responsible to take actions which can make a difference,” says the Environment Agency’s senior adviser on farming and water quality, Clare Blackledge. “That’s why targeted advice on what can be done to reduce any impact of farming activities is also available,” she continues.
“The reasons for the catchment being at risk are highlighted, so that you know which substances have to be addressed. There is also a set of good practice measures covering a range of potential pollution sources. Initial feedback from both agronomists and farmers has been positive.”
West Suffolk Thurlow Farms Estate Ltd farm director, Andrew Crossley says that the ability to zoom in on water protection zones, understand exactly which parts of the farm they affect and get an appreciation of the surrounding areas is very useful, especially when it comes to planning fertiliser and agrochemical applications.
“The accuracy is very good – I’m not sure where else I could get this level of detail. Paper-based systems become out-of-date very quickly.”
*Concerns about the way forward on water quality in general and the WIYBY initiative can be discussed with the staff on the Voluntary Initiative’s stand at the CropTec Event which takes place at the East of England showground on 24th & 25th November.

App aid
A new App to help farmers and advisers prevent key pesticides entering raw water supplies – and avoid further restrictions being placed on products – has been launched by Adama.
As part of Adama’s WaterAware initiative, the WaterAware App spatially assimilates soil type and the associated soil moisture deficit information along with forecast weather, to provide farmers with a simple yes/no guide with regard to the timing of spray and pellet applications and the potential risk to surface water.
“WaterAware helps farmers to identify the potential risk from applying a product on a particular day, given their on farm conditions, in order to minimize the risk of pesticides entering surface water supplies,” says Adama senior crop team Leader, Dr Paul Fogg.
The ‘Water Aware’ APP can be downloaded from both the AppStore and Google Play for both IOS and Android devices. In addition, Adama, the headline sponsor of the CropTec event, will be demonstrating the ‘WaterAware’ App in the Spraying Technology Hub Zone at the event.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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