The impact that the changing climate is having on farms around the UK is emphasising how important long-term investment in land drainage is, industry experts are now saying, with farmers now having to learn how to deal with extreme weather events such as drought and torrential downpours.
According to the Eastern Daily Press, many parts of the country received the average amount of rainfall for October in the first two weeks of the month, which included the wettest day on record for rainfall nationwide – with enough rain falling on October 3rd to fill Loch Ness!
This came after an incredibly dry spring and hot summer, which had a big impact on cereal yields. The amount of rain that then followed meant farmers in East Anglia struggled with potato harvesting and wheat planting.
Managing director of drainage specialists William Morfoot Tim Sisson explained that many land drainage systems around the country no longer work effectively because investment has dried up since the abolition of grant aid back in 1981.
However, land drainage is now more important than ever for arable farming, because of the increase in rainfall, the timing of rainfall events and the removal of basic payment scheme subsidies from the EU, as well as ageing draining systems, Mr Sisson continued.
Similarly, water resources specialist for the National Farmers’ Union Paul Hammett explained that farmers in East Anglia will also need to prepare for increased droughts during the spring and summer months.
He said: “During recent dry weather periods, farmers who rely on water from abstracted sources such as rivers and boreholes have been constrained in their activities, while public water supplies have been maintained without interruption.
“Farmers are doing what they can to make the most of water, including capturing rainwater from farm building roofs, using soil moisture probes to fine-tune irrigation scheduling, and investing in on-farm storage. Yet despite this, the regulatory outlook for irrigation licences looks daunting.”
It’s not just farmers that will need to prioritise water management in the future, as a result of climate change, increased urbanisation, ageing pipe networks and a growing population, all of which are putting pressure on the nation’s fresh water supplies.
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