Low commodity prices impact demand for land drainage
Low commodity prices are having an impact on the demand for land drainage. With commodity prices at an all time low, some farms have this year chosen to rest their land and instead invest in land drainage to maximise crop yields once prices return.
Our MD, Andrew Cotterill, commented: “This year we’ve seen a number of farms hold off on planting crops and instead install land drainage. They’ve preferred to do this rather than go through the heartache of growing crops only to break even when harvested. Of course, not all farms can afford to do this but it shows the level of importance farms associate with land drainage.”
James Startin, the owner of Startin Farms in Staffordshire, is one the farms that has chosen to do this. James commented: “If land has to be taken out of production to carry out maintenance such as drainage, it makes sense to do this when potential returns are at their lowest rather than when they are good. Bitter as it may seem to carry out capital schemes in the current climate but the long term investment associated with a drainage scheme will pay off over a 30 year period, and prove itself more than worth its cost.”
Demand is also being driven by the extreme wet weather of recent years and the fact that farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of land drainage. Following the washout of 2013/2014, which was recorded as the wettest winter since records began for the UK, 2015/2016 proved to be the second wettest on record and this is only set to get worse.
Having well drained soils is vital to improving crop yields and a recent survey of farmers we undertook revealed that 65% had invested in land drainage over the last five years, with 54% planning to do so over the next year.
The survey also revealed that 63% had seen a significant impact on their yields as a result of land drainage. Depending on the condition of the land, an improvement in crop yields can be as much as 150%.
Andrew added: “In recent years we’ve seen the demand for land drainage increase massively and the results of this survey shows just what an impact it can have on crop yields.”
The land drainage season is now in full swing for the agricultural sector, as farmers typically install land drainage between August and April once their land is bare, with September and October being the busiest months.
The maintenance of land drainage is also vital and farmers are advised to check their old land drainage systems to ensure the pipes were surrounded by gravel when they were installed. Our survey showed that 43% of farmers undertake regular dyke and ditch maintenance, 19% do mole draining and 24% do both.
One of our customers, David Jones, farms 1,150ha as part of a family partnership at Hatton Bank Farm, in Stratford upon Avon. Having also grown up in a family owned land drainage business he understands the importance of well drained land. He commented: “Good land drainage makes the difference between a good and bad crop. A poor crop costs just as much to grow as a good crop. We’ve managed to improve and maintain good soil structure by ensuring our land is well drained.”
About the survey
Our survey was conducted as a paper questionnaire at the Cereals event in June 2016. Around 400 farmers took part.