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New Farming Rules for Water

Since April farmers in England have been following some new common-sense rules which will make a difference to the health of rivers. This is particularly welcome in our corner of the world known as the ‘vegetable plot of England’, farmers in Lincolnshire are under pressure to use modern agricultural practices. Unfortunately, these can play a large part in degrading water quality. Manure and manufactured fertilisers contain vital nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that plants need to help them grow healthily.  Rain can then carry these away from the fields into rivers and other nearby waterbodies.

Known as diffuse water pollution, agriculture is responsible for about a third of the diffuse water pollution in the UK.Although the diffuse water pollution from each farm is often small collectively this adds up causing raised nutrient levels.  High nutrient levels in our rivers cause fast growing algae and weed to grow, crowding out native plants, deoxygenating the water causing damage to the ecosystems present in the river habitat.

Another issue known as ‘poaching’ is where livestock cause damage to the grass in the fields alongside rivers and streams causing damage to the turf particularly in wet and muddy conditions.  This can increase soil erosion, which after rainfall ends up in our rivers turning them brown and effecting the fish and invertebrates.

The new Farming Rules for Water state that farmers must:

  • Test the soil in their fields every 5 years for nutrients Including phosphorus and nitrogen. Enabling them to plan how much extra fertiliser to add.
  • Fertilisers must be stored in a way that doesn’t pose a significant risk of pollution, and they shouldn’t be applied close to rivers and other waterbodies.
  • Reasonable precautions must be taken to reduce soil erosion, and livestock feeders should be positioned away from rivers, lakes and springs. Any land within 5 metres of fresh or coastal waters will have to be protected from soil erosion by preventing poaching by livestock.

A full list of the rules can be found here: Farming Rules for Water 2018

Most farmers will already be following this advice through their current farming practices, but these rules will ensure all farms up to this higher standard.

If you farm locally and would like to talk to us about helping your local river please get in touch at lincsrivers@gmail.com


Lincolnshire Rivers Trust
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