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Guide aims to stem declining drainage investment in the UK


September 24, 2015
By Staff

Sept. 24, 2015, Warwickshire, UK – The basic principles of field drainage, as well as maintenance and installation information, are the subject of a new practical guide issued by the United Kingdom’s Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

By refreshing knowledge on drainage, AHDB hopes the guide will play an important role in stemming the decline in UK drainage investment.

Well-drained soils enhance the resilience of land by making it more able to withstand weather shocks – such as those seen in the wet autumn of 2012.

Fields have been drained for agricultural use for centuries but the last significant nationwide investment occurred in the wake of World War II, when grant aid and advice was freely available as part of a productivity push. Grant aid and free advice dried up in the 1980s and the rate of installation of new drains has declined.

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Good field drainage is of particular value to growers on heavy soils, in high rainfall areas or where the water table needs to be controlled.

“In essence, good drainage is about managing soil to help it return to field capacity,” said Kirk Hill, ADAS senior soil and water engineer and co-author of the guide. “Soils in a well-drained state tend to work more easily and provide yield benefits. This guide explains how to get fields in that state, which often does not involve a significant capital investment.”

The guide describes how a relatively small investment, such as locating and maintaining existing ditches and drains, is likely to reap rewards relatively quickly. Useful guidance to help growers locate outfalls, such as checking ditches after rainfall in autumn and winter when there is less vegetation, is also detailed in the guide. For growers considering installing a new system, the guide provides outline costs and real-life case studies. The guide also features information on subsoiling and topsoil loosening and details when it is appropriate to supplement the drainage system with mole drains.

The field drainage guide can be downloaded here.