Plan ahead for future water use

WATERING CROPS RI Farm
SPRINKLER: Potatoes being irrigated with a sprinkler system.

AHDB is reminding farmers and growers to review their water usage and take steps to build resilience into their long-term supply as high temperatures continue.

With just half a day without water meaning disaster for a crop of cucumbers, continuity of water supply is essential for crop growth, especially for those grown in nurseries.

Water is vital for all agricultural and horticultural sectors, with variance in the quantity and quality required, as well as different patterns in seasonal requirements.

AHDB’s survey of horticultural and potato growers indicated the value of irrigated crops ranged from £4,400 per hectare – for varieties of deep-rooted field vegetables – to more than £460,000 a hectare for some high-value glasshouse salad crops.

For livestock producers, while the quantity of water needed may be less, the quality of the water supply must be good enough and readily available for stock – every day.

AHDB Resource Management Scientist Nicola Dunn said: “We’d like farmers and growers to consider and plan for their long-term water supply needs.

“When water supply is plentiful, farmers and growers need the ability to store water – whether in a reservoir or a storage tank – so they can tap into alternative sources when water is low or can’t be abstracted.

“They also need access to technology and equipment, so water can get to crops and livestock efficiently, but it all comes at a cost and a lack of supply could be detrimental to business.”

AHDB’s Strategic Potato Farm in the east of England has been carrying out trials to reduce water run-off and improve crop irrigation since April 2017.

Eleveden Farm Manager Andrew Francis said: “As water becomes an increasingly scarce and costly resource we have considered a number of ways of using water more wisely on farm.

“We are looking at factors such as the minimum water required by different varieties of potatoes so we can target our use of water and we’re testing different ways to reduce water run-off with new technologies and bunds to keep valuable top soil in place.”

AHDB Horticulture panel member, Andrew Fuller has also developed a strategic approach to his use of water at his Lincolnshire based nursery Neame Lea.

Andrew explained: “Recent improvements to our glasshouse uses ebb and flow watering, whereby water is recirculated as plants grow – eliminating runoff.

“At the same time we make sure that all rain-water from rooves is harvested and used in crop watering. We’re aiming for rain water to provide all of our needs throughout the year – to do this; construction of suitably sized reservoirs is a key part of our future development and expansion.”

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