Water is a primary input on farm – whether arable or livestock. About 86% of holdings rely on mains water supply and its cost continues to rise. But rainwater is free – and visitors to the Midlands Machinery Show can learn how to harvest this valuable asset.
Michael Jorden, director of JRH Water Management, will ask farmers at the seminar on rainwater harvesting how much they pay each year for water.
“Most people don’t really know: A majority of water bills are paid by direct debit and farms which are now metered find their costs have gone up because they pay for what they use – previously they were on a flat rate,” says Mr Jorden.
Farmers should therefore consider the benefits of harvesting rainwater. “Farmers are great harvesters so why not consider rainwater harvesting?” he asks.
“There are so many advantages, beside the fact the water costs nothing: Harvesting it offers a way to control flood risk by reducing run off – both areas of government concern – and it is chemical-free so helps improve crop performance and reduce the rate of deterioration in machinery and drinkers.”
With water currently such a hot topic, there are plenty of grants available to help store, manage and distribute harvested water.
“Keep an eye out for grants and quiz your land agent,” says Mr Jorden. “The Countryside Stewardship Water Catchment grant is still available but there are two new opportunities launching this month: The Farming Investment Fund and the Sustainability and Technology Fund.
“They aim to help farmers diversify through efficiency. Water harvesting is therefore covered. And if you don’t go for the grant option, don’t forget there is 100% tax relief available through the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA).”
Mr Jorden will also touch on research results from Lincoln University which are due for release at the end of the year.
These suggest that chlorine in mains water reacts with glyphosate, reducing its efficacy. Less glyphosate is therefore required when mixed with the same volume of rainwater – as compared with mains water – to achieve the same level of performance.
“There is also an efficiency saving as calcium in mains water leads to a buildup of limescale in sprayers and troughs. Using rainwater means cleaner equipment, resulting in reduced maintenance and labour costs,” he adds.
Sustainability is key for future success in agriculture: “Farmers’ profits are not going to change; all sectors of the industry will have to continue to force more out for less or the same.
“Many perhaps do not realise there is a hierarchy when it comes to water supply,” explains Mr Jorden. “Human life is the primary concern. Next is commercial and industrial demand. Farming is at the bottom so, in the next four to five years, if there is no change in the way we manage water in this country, agricultural supplies will be the first to be rationed. And water scarcity could potentially happen in the UK: Most water companies will admit they are – most of the year – just a few months shy of a water ban.”