Farmer’s awareness of water quality issues have improved year-on-year, according to research undertaken by Promar on behalf of Severn Trent Water (STW).
The data incorporates feedback from over 90 farmers from STW priority catchments during 2016 and 2017, explains Katherine Filby, STW Catchment Management Planner.
“Following a number of catchment scale trials from 2012, we launched a pioneering catchment management programme in 2015, of farmer support across 27 catchments covering 4,000km2 and approximately 4,000 priority farms.
“The programme aimed to increase awareness of the issue of pesticides reaching water sources, and support farmers in making changes to protect and improve water quality in their local catchment.
In 2015, work to investigate the effectiveness of the programme commenced, explains Katherine. “We were keen to understand how our schemes were being received by the farming community and how we could improve them.
“The research identified that in 2017, 94% of the farmers questioned, can now identify water quality concerns in their area, an increase on the 87% recorded in 2016. Following one-on-one visits from a STW agricultural advisors, 45% of farmers questioned made changes to their farming practices as a result. This is a marked improvement compared to 38% for the previous year.
“And, following attendance at one of our workshops in 2017, 40% said that they plan to make changes to their farming practices in the future, which is an increase on 2016 results.”
The research has also highlighted a positive response to ferric phosphate with 61% of slug pellet users having tried or regularly using ferric phosphate as an alternative to metaldehyde.
Katherine adds that 2017 has seen increased activity for their team of agricultural advisors following increased awareness and interest in STW support schemes. “As we move into the third year of our catchment programme and research, we look forward to seeing whether awareness has further improved.
“The insight provided by Promar has shown that a catchment approach can be effective at increasing awareness and changing farmer behaviours to protect and improve drinking water quality, and we hope to be able to demonstrate even greater improvements in 2018.”