Working with farmers to improve soil health and water quality

December 2021

Fiona Pearce
Senior Catchment Management Specialist

What was the challenge?

Organic matter levels in the soils of the Petworth and Rother Valley area of West Sussex tend to be low, which means the soils are vulnerable to being washed off the farm into waterways and onto roads, taking pesticides and nutrients with them. This is bad news for both the farm and water quality in our rivers and groundwater sources.

What did we do about it?

Each farmer worked with a specialist, independent advisor to set targets for improving soil health and put together a plan for how to achieve them. We’re funding the measures being put in place to meet these targets. If they’re met at the end of the project, we’ll pay an additional incentive too. 

This trial aligns with the catchment management principles of addressing the root causes of water quality issues (rather than the symptoms) and working collaboratively with farmers and stakeholders to co-develop solutions.

What are the benefits for our customers?

Improving soil health can take many years, but we hope to see some positive changes within the life of the project and gain some useful insights to inform our future work in this area while raising awareness among the wider farming community.

Increasing organic matter levels can reduce soil erosion and also means the soils take up and store more carbon, contributing to the fight against climate change.  

As part of our Western Rother soil health trials and targets, we’re working with farmers and a specialist advisor in the area to raise awareness of the importance of soil health and how to achieve healthier soils.

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