Anglian Water supports farmers and protects environment in ‘England’s breadbasket’
27 September 2023
Anglian Water is working with farming communities across the region to support healthy soils for the benefit of future cropping, the environment and protection of the region’s waterways.
This summer, an additional 1,000 hectares of subsidised cover crops have been planted by farmers across the East of England to improve soil quality and to help protect the environment thanks to a scheme funded by Anglian Water.
Now in its second year, the scheme offers funds for farmers to help towards the cost of cover crop seed. Cover crops provide a number of benefits for both farmers and the environment – they increase organic matter to improve arable produce, increase the soil’s capacity to hold more water building resilience against droughts, reduce the need for pesticides and therefore also protect water quality by reducing the risk of soil and chemical run-off into local watercourses during heavy rainfall events.
For the third year running, Anglian Water is also about to launch its Farm Innovation Grant, offering bespoke support to farmers across the region, with applications open from 2 October 2023.
The grant is specifically aimed at supporting and developing new and innovative solutions towards finding local solutions to local raw water quality challenges (herbicides, nitrates, phosphates and soil loss) in priority catchments.
Last year the fund supported over 45 projects, delivering over £1million of benefit across the region.
Richard Heady, a Milton Keynes based farmer said: “Benefitting from both Anglian Water’s subsidised cover crop offer and Farm Innovation Grant, I’ve been able to reduce my costs, improve my farming techniques and protect the environment surrounding my farm.
“Funding from the grant allowed me to buy a stubble rake for my farm which I’ve been able to use to rake in the cover crops into my fields. These will help lock any nutrients into the soil that have been left in from the previous crop and reduce the need for expensive and harmful pesticides. The risk of soil, nutrients and pesticides washing down the field towards the nearby watercourse will be reduced.”
Chris Hewis, Catchment Advisor for Anglian Water said: “It is vital that Anglian Water works with farmers, like Richard, to ensure that we maintain healthy water quality as well as healthy crops and a healthy rural economy.
“There are so many mutual benefits to planting cover crops. For example, when we look at the reduced need for pesticides, although we can remove many chemicals from raw water before we put it into supply, a far more sustainable and environmentally beneficial solution is to work alongside farmers to reduce the chance of pesticides getting into the water in the first place. Reducing the need for pesticides also reduces costs for farmers.
“Schemes like this mean we can support farmers, providing them with local initiatives to aid food production, water resources and environmental protection - ultimately a positive for both our customers and the environment.”
As the nation’s ‘breadbasket’ with three quarters of the land used for arable farming, agriculture is a vital industry in East Anglia. But as the driest region in the UK with an increasing risk of drought due to climate change, water supplies are precious and need safeguarding.
By growing cover crops, the soil can hold more water naturally, so the environment benefits, crops are more resilient to drought and less additional water is needed for irrigation, leaving more in the environment for nature to thrive.
The projects form part of the company’s Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP)- the largest plan of any water company with a total investment of over £800million of work which is specifically targeted at protecting the environment and improving water quality.
It also forms part of Anglian Water’s Get River Positive commitment to support and work with other sectors to improve and care for the region’s rivers.