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Novel Cover Crop Scheme a Success

A scheme to prevent nitrate leaching into groundwater and rivers in Cambs and Herts (which FWAG East helped to deliver) has captured 40 tonnes of nitrate over 800 hectares.

The joint initiative by Affinity Water and Cambridge Water has been announced a success by the two water companies and as such will be repeated for a third successive year. This means the companies will again fund the growing of cover crops in North Herts and South Cambs through the Entrade environmental trading platform.

Shaun Dowman Agricultural Advisor to Affinity Water explained:

“All farmers involved in our 2020/21 cover crop scheme have successfully grown their cover crops which have done a great job at protecting soils from erosion, reducing nitrate leaching and capturing carbon. This follows on from the success of the 2019 cover crop scheme.

“With species such as oil radish, Italian ryegrass, barley and oats being grown widely in addition to other species such as linseed, buckwheat and mustard providing colour, many of the fields across our catchments looked at bit different to normal this year. As well as providing aesthetic interest these cover crops can also benefit farmland birds and other species over winter by providing cover and diversity in the landscape”.

Jennifer Thomas, Catchment Advisor for Cambridge Water said:

“Cover crops play an important role in improving farm productivity and enhancing the natural environment. These crops, grown in the autumn/winter months between cash crops, are an excellent way to capture excess nitrate left in the soil. Without a cover crop this nitrate has the potential to leach into the aquifer or into nearby rivers, increasing the nitrate concentration which would then require water treatment.

"Aside from the benefits to water quality, growing a cover crop can also help build organic matter in soils, protect them from erosion and can attract farmland birds and other wildlife to increase biodiversity.”

For more information about the scheme please contact

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