Preventing Run Off Successfully

In Britain we’ve just had the wettest April on record – despite Scotland seeing below average rainfall. In fact, some places saw as much as three times the normal expected rainfall.

This incredibly wet month comes just after a very dry March, which may have presented a few problems with run-off for many of our farmers in the UK. LEAF held two events in March on practical measures to improve water quality. At such a dry time, much of what we discussed at these events was theory based!

At Stratton Farms in Somerset, LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Jeremy Padfield, had a problem with run off on a particularly steep slope. Water was running off onto a road and down into a nearby village. To correct this, Jeremy dug a run off buffer in the field corner where the water was running through, which cost around £250 to implement, using a JCB and dump trailer.

Earlier this week Jeremy sent us some photos (taken 28th April), which clearly shows the impact the buffer has had during this wet month. For comparison, the second selection of photos show the run off buffer as they were exactly a month ago in March (28th).

28th April 2012:

28th March 2012:

You can see more of what Jeremy has done to help prevent run off on his farm in this video that was filmed in March.


4 responses to “Preventing Run Off Successfully

  1. So Jeremy has succeeded in preventing tonnes of topsoil (plus nutrients, organic matter and any inputs) from washing out of the field. But why was the soil allowed to erode in the first place? We are told that this is a steep field and was formerly part of a livestock unit, so presumably under grass and for a good reason – it is too steep for sustainable cultivation. If it is necessary to bring the land into cultivation then use conservation farming practices i.e. reduce the impact of rainfall on the soil by maintaining soil cover (this field was bare in Spring), and reduce the velocity of run-off by cultivating across the slope and maintaining vegetation strips. Keep soil in place rather than keep moving it back up the hill.

  2. Thanks for your comments Vaughan. Yes this farm was a dairy farm some twenty years ago and had been transformed to an arable unit when we took the farm on. Unfortunately all the farm buildings have been taken down by the landlord and residential accomodation has taken its place and so with no livestock buildings available the only viable option was to continue to farm with the current enterprises. One of the first things we did when we took on the tenancy was to take one third of the field out of production and grass it over and this is now grazed by a neighbours sheep and the remainder is in arable production. The farm is in an agri environment scheme and one of the options is over wintered stubble to help farmland birds with winter feed areas and this particular field was in this option over this last winter before being ploughed and planted in mid March. We have a wildlife margin around this field, we cultivate and drill the crop across the slope, we use precision farming techniques to the extent that each field is broken down into zones according to soil type and structure. These individual zones are then tested every three years for nutrient status and any requirements are applied using GPS guided machines to ensure that we only apply the correct amount of plant food or crop medicine to the growing plants in each zone. Therefore the plants only recieve the plant food (fertilizer) if it is required and if it is not required the machine guided by the satellite will not apply it. The suds options were put in as a back up to what we were already demonstrating in the field and in fairness the last two years the two buffer areas have been relatively empty until last week when this field recieved 125mm just in 5 days and they have worked very well in holding this exceptional run off contained in the field.


    • Jeremy – thanks for your response. It sounds as though you are already managing the land well and the suds have been effective in managing the impact of exceptional weather events. Your over-winter stubble is good for the soil as well as the birds and it seems you were unfortunate to have such heavy rain after the field was ploughed. Would it be possible to maintain a cover on the soil by sowing into an Autumn sown cover crop? The cover crop/stubble, as well as reducing the erosive power of the rain will also help to increase the soil organic matter content, which in turn will help improve soil structure and thus the infiltration capactiy. You might also want to look at the existing soil structure and see if it could be improved, for example by changing your cultivation techniques.


  3. Pingback: Agriculture: Improving water quality for all | LEAF's blog

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