How can farmers improve their productivity ready for Brexit?

How can farmers improve their productivity ready for Brexit?

Farmers were recently warned by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) that they need to improve their productivity ready for Brexit. But why is productivity so important now and how can you as a farmer increase your output? Cotterill Civils has the answer for you.

Why do farmers need to improve their productivity ready for Brexit?

With EU subsidies set to disappear once Britain leaves the bloc in 2019, farmers are being advised to increase their output in order to plug the £4.3billion gap in lost GDP by the AHDB.

In January, the AHDB reported that Britain is falling significantly behind other countries with regards to its rate of growth in productivity. In contrast, pace-setting countries, like the USA and the Netherlands, have a rate of productivity growth that is three times faster than ours.

How can farmers increase their productivity?

The key to profitability of any farm is its continual focus on improving its crop yields. Understanding how much you can produce within a given amount of time is essential to how efficient you are. You want to maximise your space and the land you work hard to cultivate.

When it comes to improving your crop yields, there are a number of different areas you could focus upon. These range from more effective planting to utilising the best fertilisers to the quality of your seeds. But core to all of this is the actual condition of your soil.

Afterall, it is much easier to grow higher yielding crops in soil with great structure, chemistry, high levels of organic matter and good moisture levels. And whilst it is possible to farm on poorer soils, the input costs will be higher and the yields lower. Your soil is arguably your most valuable asset, which is why its ongoing management is so important.

How can farmers improve the quality of their soil?

Before you can improve the quality of your soil, you first need to understand exactly what you are working with. Getting specific soil analysis undertaken is a worthwhile investment. This can provide you with three markers to understand and monitor the effectiveness of your efforts:

  • Soil structure
    This refers to the way individual particles of sand, silt, and clay are assembled. This affects both the soil’s stability and how easy it is for a plant type to take root.
  • Water retention capacity
    Soil water holding capacity is controlled primarily by the soil texture and the soil organic matter content. For example, farms in sandy soil areas may wish to take action to increase this.
  • Water drainage capacity
    This refers to the soil’s ability to retain water. For example, clay soil has the highest water holding capacity whilst sand has the least. In clay or peaty soil, steps can be taken to improve the drainage in fields.

Ways in which you can improve the quality of your soil include increasing the organic matter, breaking up the soil to improve aeration and water retention, choosing the right fertiliser and improving the land drainage.

How can you improve waterlogged soils?

Having well drained soils is vital to improving crop yields and a survey of farmers revealed that 65% had invested in land drainage over the last five years, with 54% planning to do so during 2017*.

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%.

There are plenty of steps farmers can take to improve waterlogged soils including cleaning drains, mole draining and creating single furrows to drain surface water. And if this doesn’t work, you can also invest in replacing an old land drainage system. With many land drainage systems installed back in the late 1990s, there is a rising demand to do this.

At Cotterill Civils, we supply land drainage pipe and we can provide you with expert advice.

Call us on 0121 351 3230 today. We know land drainage.


*Survey undertaken by Cotterill Civils at Cereals event in 2016