Farmers paid to help protect north Northumberland drinking water supply

Farmers are being encouraged – and paid – to help protect north Northumberland’s drinking water.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 11:45 am
A map showing the area of the Fell Sandstone Aquifer in north Northumberland. Picture: Crown Copyright
A map showing the area of the Fell Sandstone Aquifer in north Northumberland. Picture: Crown Copyright

Environmental charity Tweed Forum, along with a number of partners, is asking farmers to implement measures that will help reduce nitrate leaching to groundwater.

Its Fell to Wells Project forms part of an online auction platform called ‘Naturebid,’ encouraging (and paying) farmers to protect the Berwick area’s drinking water supply.

The innovative and competitive project, will encourage participation from farmers overlying the Fell Sandstone Aquifer, which extends in a narrow band from East Ord in the north to East Lilburn in the south.

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The Fell to Wells Project will allow farmers to bid for funding to deliver a small number of targeted measures on their land, to reduce nitrate leaching to groundwater.

Through the online auction, farmers can select the fields on which they may wish to establish overwinter cover crops and reduce the application of nitrogen. They can then competitively bid for funding to implement it.

The most competitive bids will receive funding from the Tweed Forum, once the measures have been agreed and put in place.

Up to 40% of inorganic nitrogen applied to fields, does not get taken up by the crop. This means that there is a significant risk to the natural environment from excess nitrogen leaching through the soil to groundwater and through surface water run-off into watercourses.

Derek Robeson from Tweed Forum, who is helping facilitate the project, said: “It is widely accepted that overwinter cover crops can take up much of the residual nitrogen left in the soil after harvest.

“Also, if nitrogen application can be reduced in the first place, without significantly affecting crop yields, then that makes complete financial sense.

“The online auction will be open for the first two weeks in March. We are hopeful that we will get significant interest from the farming community, overlying the Fell Sandstone aquifer.”

Project partners include Northumbrian Water, Newcastle University, Environment Agency, Natural England and Sylva Foundation.

Farmers can register their interest in attending a meeting in Etal Village Hall, on Wednesday, February 26 by contacting [email protected] or phoning 01896 849723.