How catchment management is good for soil health
We are committed to providing a consistent supply of high quality water to all of our customers for now and future generations. To do this, we work in partnership with the people and industries operating within our catchments to identify risk and implement options that will reduce or prevent pollutants reaching our drinking water supplies.
Many of our SPRING options provide additional benefits for improving soil health and reducing soil erosion.
In-field grass strips and beetle banks
In-field grass strips
(SSW6) - £560 / ha
Vulnerable areas within the field are protected from soil erosion by creating an area of rough grass. The grass cover will help to slow surface water flow, trap soil and aid the infiltration of water. This option will also support beneficial insects and ground nesting birds such skylark.
(SSW7) - £600 / ha
Ground beetles are proven to improve soil structure and soil fauna biodiversity. Creating habitat for them on farm will therefore improve soil health whilst offering habitat to other species which, along with the beetles predate on on-farm predators such as slugs – an extra bonus!
Take corners out of management
(SSW8) - £400 / ha
This option slows surface water flow, trapping soil and aiding the infiltration of water. Typically located in low lying field corners where surface water is liable to cause soil erosion. This option will also support beneficial insects and ground nesting birds.
(SSW10) - £110 / ha
To protect the soil from erosion and retain soil structure and organic matter on land where soil would normally be left bare (typically in winter) before the next crop. Also provides protection against loss of pollutants carried in surface run-off and reduce nitrate leaching.
Post and wire fencing
(SSW21) - £3.50 p/m
Livestock accessing water courses erode banks. Fencing prevents livestock access creating a buffer strip and allowing vegetation to grow which will help stabilise the bank preventing further erosion and soil damage.
(SSW26) - £320 per unit
Relocating gateways prevents further erosion and compaction and allows regeneration of soil, not just of the gateway area, but of all the tracks through the field leading to the gate.
Hard bases for livestock drinkers/feeders
(SSW29) - £320 per unit
Laying a hard base on top of a geotextile membrane in an area of high livestock footfall prevents soil erosion, compaction and poaching. The geotextile lining with hardcore allows for good even drainage of the area into the soil below preventing waterlogging.
(SSW30) - £100 per unit
Properly located troughs will protect soil by preventing livestock from accessing and poaching ground near to water courses which causes bank erosion.
Livestock and machinery tracks
(SSW32) - £30 / m
Properly laid out farm tracks with the right materials prevents erosion, compaction and drainage issues from tracks worked up by machinery and livestock poaching.
MZURI direct drilling
South Staffs Water purchased a second hand Mzuri Drill in 2017 to try out with various crops on our trial farm, Atkin Farms. The Mzuri strip tillage system helps improve soil organic matter, structure and fertility by incorporating crop residue, creating better nutrition and better habitat for soil fauna. By performing multiple operations in one pass, in field traffic is reduced, which reduces compaction issues and problems associated with compaction such as run off. After successful trials the drill has been incorporated into our SPRING scheme, offering farmers a subsidy for using the drill through our approved contractor.
Improving soil health
In addition to our SPRING scheme, landowners can improve their soil quality through:
- Increasing soil organic matter
- Decreasing soil erosion
- Soil Sampling
Increasing Soil Organic Matter
Increasing the amount of organic matter will increase the health of the soil. In addition, healthy soils provide a number of benefits such as reduced flood risk and increased water holding capacity. There are a few different ways that soil organic matter can be increased:
- Incorporation of crop residues after harvest
- Use of livestock manure on fields
- Cover crops
Decreasing Soil Erosion
Decreasing the potential for soil erosion ensures that soils stay healthy and productive. The above measures whilst increasing organic matter will also decrease the risk of soil erosion. The following measures will also prevent soil erosion:
- Reduced tillage or zero tillage systems
- Manage over-winter tramlines
- Early establishment of winter crops
- Cultivating across the slop
- Routinely visually asses levels of compaction on farm and take action to reduce where possible through using lighter machinery, reduce the number of passes, use the correct tyre pressure, consider moving water and feed troughs at regular intervals and fence off streams and rivers from livestock
Routine soil sampling can identify trends in soil quality, either increasing or decreasing, and allow for any remedial action to occur if required. It also reduces the risk of over application of products and ensures that the products are being used efficiently.