Soil management is becoming an increasingly important issue for UK farmers. In fact, we believe the demand for land drainage is at its highest level since the end of the 1990s.
This heightened demand is being driven by two key factors:
- a surge in old clay piping systems reaching the end of their lifespan and;
- an increase in more extreme wet weather.
The demand for land drainage is evident not only in our sales figures but also industry statistics. Last year, the National Farmers Union (NFU) revealed that a massive 62% of UK farms had improved their land drainage in 2014.
Old systems no longer working
According to the Agriculture and Development Board around 6.4 million hectares of agricultural land in England and Wales have been drained with piped systems.
The installation of clay piping systems was popular over 30 years ago when government grants were available for land drainage. In the 1980s these grants were retracted leading to fewer farmers choosing to invest in them.
30 years on and unsurprisingly these systems are now causing problems. They have either become clogged with silt, which cannot be flushed out, or they have become subsoiled through as they were often only laid 600mm deep. Consequently, many farms are still reliant on them, resulting in reduced yields and lowered crop performance.
An increase in extreme weather is driving demand
The magnitude of extreme rainfall has also increased twofolds over parts of the UK since the 1960s and this is set to get even worse2. You only need to look at our recent weather this year’s winter was the second wettest on record!
Good land drainage systems are therefore becoming more and more vital for farmers.
Our managing director, Andrew Cotterill, commented on this trend: “We’ve been around for over 25 years and over the last 5 years in particular we’ve seen the demand for land drainage systems rise by around 40%. In addition to decaying piping systems and more extreme weather, we believe the rising price of land has been another contributing factor to the heightened
1 http://www.farmingfutures.org.uk/blog/yourlanddrainageoutdatedandlosingyoumoney 2 http://www.climateadaptation.eu/unitedkingdom/climatechange/
demand for land drainage. Now more than ever before farmers are under increased pressure to get the optimum yield and productivity from their land.”
“Having well drained soils is vital to producing more crops and we’ve seen our customers increase their crop yields by as much as 150% as a result of our land drainage systems. Modern land drainage systems have moved on considerably since the old clay piping systems of the 1970s. They are now designed to have a much longer life span. Installation technology has also advanced considerably, enabling you to have piping laid with greater precision and accuracy.”
Good land drainage makes the difference between a good and bad crop
A customer of ours, David Jones, farms 1,150ha as part of a family partnership at Hatton Bank Farm, in Stratford upon Avon. 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.”
“Another reason why it is so important to maintain well drained land is for the control of black grass. It thrives in wetter, heavier soils and I know many farms are still struggling to recover from the wet harvest of 2012.”
Advice to farmers
Some of our top tips for farmers include:
- Check your old land drainage to ensure your pipes are surrounded by gravel when they were installed.
- Make sure you undertake regular mole draining above the drainage scheme level.
- Ditch and dyke maintenance should also be carried out as necessary and the drainageoutlets into these should be checked.
For more advice on land drainage or to discuss any our our land drainage products, contact our sales team on 0121 351 3230