31 May 2016

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) is a national initiative run by Natural England, The Environment Agency and is funded by DEFRA. The local partnership covers the Nene and Welland catchments and provides farmers within these catchment with free advice to reduce water pollution from agriculture.

The upper Welland is a new CSF catchment with the focus being on the Stonton Brook sub catchment, which is currently in poor ecological status. The Water Friendly Farming Project (WFF) has been gathering baseline data on water quality and ecology in the catchment since 2012 in order to gauge a before and after improvement. The project encourages an active participation from the farming community with scientific application and evaluation of landscape scale activities to improve water quality, while maintaining farm incomes and other environmental objectives. Data sourced from the project will be used as a focus for discussion with farmers about practical improvements that could benefit the water quality.

Remote sensing data focused on predicting areas at risk of run-off will be used to guide discussion with farmers to adopt practical improvements on the ground. The Stonton Brook sub catchment will be a pilot area for this approach and will allow for areas at risk of run-off to be identified, based on slopes and other environment factors, combined with farmers’ own knowledge. With this in mind, the model may also help with the prevention of Cross Compliance breaches of soil management to meet rules set out by Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) requirements and Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). If you are interested in discussing the model with a view to learn more about run-off and over land flow on your farm and possible mitigation options then please get in touch using the contact details below.

To go hand in hand with the above approach, free on farm one-to-one advice can be provided for the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, including the Mid-Tier Scheme and Capital Grants. The benefit of engaging with CSF when planning a Countryside Stewardship application is the offer of advice on options to suit your farm and its current practices, access to higher value Capital Items such as concrete yard renewal and pesticide handling facilities, as well as an increased chance of your application being accepted into the scheme, which is now competitive - not all those who apply will be accepted.

If you are interested in hearing more on the above, or are coming towards the end of your ELS agreement then please contact Georgina Wallis, Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer for the Nene and upper Welland catchments on 07921 941734.