2013-06-14 xml
Costs, Soils, Management and Abstraction Examined at Potato Irrigation Workshop

Coinciding with publication of its new Irrigation Guide, Potato Council’s recent Irrigation Workshop in Withington, Herefordshire flowed well, with irrigation topics and expert speakers attracting regional growers and much timely technical knowledge shared.

Anthony Hopkins of Wroot Water Ltd, advised, when setting up irrigation systems, to examine topography, water and power availability and to make sure they know the costs and practicalities.

Potato Irrigation

Potato Irrigation

Growers should invest in the best irrigation system they can afford from the outset to avoid costly upgrades at a later stage. For example, choosing the right filtration system is vital for the water source you use, as impurities can dramatically increase filtration costs.

Kate Adams, Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CSF) for the Wye explained how agricultural use amounts to 93% of the surface water abstraction from the Wye. However, the river and its tributaries are designated sites protected by European law, and currently classified as ‘unfavourable’ for its waterborne wildlife. Most licenses in the Wye now have ‘Hands Off Flow’ restrictions to reduce or stop abstractions when river levels reach a critical point. Kate stressed it is key for growers to have an effective irrigation plan as abstraction availability comes under increased pressure.

One way to reduce abstraction needs, advised Kate, is by effective soil management and growers should assess soil conditions to check for compaction. Run-off can be reduced by 50-98% by good soil management practice, ultimately saving growers further resources that are always under pressure – time and money.

Peter Timms, Senior Permitting Officer at the Environment Agency (Water Resources) stressed how important irrigation was to the local economy of Herefordshire (not just for potatoes but asparagus, soft fruit and top fruit) but that regional water availability was stretched, especially in summer, and how abstraction caused major problems for rivers failing to meet the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Peter advised that these problems can be avoided or reduced by improving irrigation efficiencies, harvesting rain water, joining a local abstractor group, undertaking a water audit and developing a reservoir. Reservoirs in particular can be very effective, providing ample winter fill and offering flexibility, security and control, leading to reduced abstraction charges and even additional income from water trading.

Peter stated “With the changing emphasis on efficient water use and the possibility of tighter abstraction legislation, it’s important to communicate with the right people.” He says “A current issue concerning growers is the uncertainty over trickle irrigation licensing, postponed again until April 2014. HWAG is working with other concerned groups and the authorities to support local abstractors.”

The group concluded that water security was good for business and the environment, and planning ahead is needed by growers in order to improve efficiency and build resilience for the future.

Peter stated “With the changing emphasis on efficient water use and the possibility of tighter abstraction legislation, it’s important to communicate with the right people.”

He says “A current issue concerning growers is the uncertainty over trickle irrigation licensing, postponed again until April 2014. HWAG is working with other concerned groups and the authorities to support local abstractors.”

The group concluded that water security was good for business and the environment, and planning ahead is needed by growers in order to improve efficiency and build resilience for the future.

Potato Council

   
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