Water Sensitive Farming (WSF) is a collaborative initiative between Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Broadland and Cam and Ely Ouse catchment partnerships. Key partners include: The Rivers Trust, WWF, Coca-Cola Great Britain, Coca-Cola European Partners, and Topsoil. WSF has been funded by the Coca-Cola and WWF Freshwater Partnership since 2012.
Water Sensitive Farming delivers benefits for water resources, as well as for the wider environment, farm businesses and supply chains. Norfolk Rivers Trust farm advisers run the day-to-day delivery of WSF, which involves working closely with farmers to develop flexible and targeted soil and water-focused solutions that are tailored to individual needs.
The project operates at a catchment scale, mainly in the Broadland Rivers and Cam and Ely Ouse catchments, but also extends into the North Norfolk and North West Norfolk catchments. Norfolk is one of the driest regions in the UK and is also an important area for food production. The combined impact of intensive agriculture, climate breakdown and increasing demand for water, means that over-abstraction and water pollution is a real threat to the local water environment. Furthermore, 15% of the world’s internationally important chalk streams are found in Norfolk.
Therefore, this project is crucial for encouraging sustainable farming practices that promote soil health and consequently improve water quality and the efficient use of water. For further information see the WSF information leaflet.
WSF work is targeted using a source-pathway-receptor approach based on a combination of local knowledge, modelling and mapping techniques. Locations are identified that pose the greatest risk, where there is poor management and where soil health can be improved i.e. high sediment supply, high soil moisture content, proximity to river channels and apparent connectivity to the rest of the catchment (roads or tramlines).
Farm visits are then conducted in which an adviser and farmer undertake a joint walkover to discuss and identify opportunities for improvement. Following the visit, a farm report is produced as feedback for the farmer. This contains suggestions for improvements and explains how WSF might support these changes in farming practice/interventions i.e. through grant funding and project management.
Suggested measures can include land management practices that reduce run-off and improve infiltration e.g. cover cropping, creating buffer strips, ditch management, disrupting tramlines and implementing controlled trafficking etc. Other options focus on ‘slowing the flow’ by capturing and preventing run-off from leaving fields e.g. moving high-risk gateways, bunding field corners and creating silt traps/farm wetlands.
All interventions are measured to quantify the replenish volume that can be attributed to each intervention (the water that is returned to the environment) using Replenish methodology (a model developed by Cranfield University).
For further information or to arrange a free farm visit contact Alison Smyth, Farm adviser, Norfolk Rivers Trust: Alison@norfolkriverstrust.org or call 07493 685906
As part of its commitment to source responsibly, Tesco also funded a Water Sensitive Farming pilot project in 2017 working in partnership with the Broads Authority as well as farmers in the Broadland Rivers Catchment. Not only is East Anglia an important sourcing location for a range of Tesco’s fresh produce, such as potatoes, the project provided lessons on approaches and interventions that could be scaled-up in other important sourcing locations. The project encouraged the use of new and innovative technology, raised awareness of the protection of waterbodies, and linked growers with funding sources.
Tesco funded the purchase of a ‘BE Wonder Wheel’ that was offered to growers to trial for free. This piece of machinery is towed behind a tractor to shape the soil in potato beds and reduce run-off from irrigation and rainfall events. Tesco have continued to make the equipment available via catchment partnership hosts. Additional equipment, such as the ‘Earthwake’ and ‘Wheel Track Roller’ are also available to trial. For more information please see the final report.
To arrange free kit trials contact: Neil Punchard, Broadland Catchment Partnership Officer, Broads Authority: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07900 266496
For more information on the project, view the video below: