Success for collaborative pesticide reduction scheme

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During 2021 no metaldehyde exceedances were reported at Severn Trent water treatment plants, recognising the success of the water company’s ‘Farm to Tap’ scheme in improving water quality.

To date, the scheme has worked collaboratively with 649 farmers in the catchment, since its inception in 2016, at which point there were 18 exceedances reported.

Laura Flower, Severn Trent senior catchment management scientist, explains that although the metaldehyde ban came in earlier this year, these results show that water companies and farmers can collaborate to drive industry change for mutual benefit.

“Farm to Tap was launched to raise awareness of the risk of pesticide pollution to watercourses, but the benefits were two-fold. The scheme offered a financial incentive, which supported farmers to switch from metaldehyde slug pellets to the ferric phosphate alternative. This helped them to prepare for the ban, and watercourses were at a much lower risk of contamination as a result.

“Farmers in successful sub-catchments were rewarded with up to £5/ha of eligible land (£8/ha pre-2018). While these payments might seem like a costly investment, every £1 we spend on catchment management saves us £20 in treatment, meaning customer bills are kept as low as possible,” she advises.

Farm to Tap success in Shropshire

Cath Edwards, Severn Trent agricultural adviser in the Shropshire Middle Severn, explains that the Farm to Tap scheme has achieved excellent results in her catchment.

“Farmers recognise that schemes like Farm to Tap are very important. Everyone’s cautious of the fact we may lose further active ingredients if they pose a water quality risk.

“We’ve found farmers really value our offering and are willing to do all they can to prevent losing vital pesticides,” she says.

Mrs Edwards adds that alongside the other solutions on offer from Severn Trent, such as funding for precision technology, sprayer washdown areas and Swap Your Nozzles, our farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of protecting water quality in general, especially with its links in the new Sustainable Farming Incentive.

With metaldehyde no longer on the market Farm to Tap is set to change. Farmers in the Severn Trent catchment are encouraged to speak to their agricultural adviser, as a new updated offering will be available in 2023.

Other funding currently available from Severn Trent:

  • STEPS – match-funding of up to £30,000 for infrastructure and land management options that protect water quality and improve productivity. Applications open until 31 January 2023
  • Swap Your Nozzles – online workshops and free low drift sprayer nozzles to reduce the risk of pesticide drift
  • Trees for Water – fully-funded hassle-free tree planting
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