Farmers and landowners can now apply for grant funding for on-farm reservoirs and equipment to improve water resource management.
Defra has announced the opening of the Countryside Productivity Scheme, which is also making funds available to assist in the purchase of equipment which improves forestry productivity.
Grants for water resource management are available to arable and horticulture businesses that are growing, or are intending to grow, irrigated crops.
They can cover up to 40% of the eligible costs of a project, with minimum grants of £35,000 and maximum ones of £1,000,000.
Matthew Martin, farming consultant in Strutt & Parker’s Shrewsbury office, said: “These grants are part of what Defra has promised is a £200m package of funding under the Rural Development Programme for England.
“Other schemes will be announced later in the year which will help to fund broadband projects, rural business support, on-farm food processing, arable and horticultural productivity and resource efficiency.
“The funds that are available now are to improve farm productivity through more efficient use of water for irrigation, and to secure water supplies for crop irrigation by the construction of on-farm reservoirs.
“It could provide opportunities for certain growers to enhance their enterprise’s capabilities beyond what would have been previously feasible.”
For example, Strutt and Parker are liaising with a local grower who is applying to construct a reservoir capable of supporting around 100 acres of potato crops, where there is currently insufficient local supply from which to abstract and irrigate.
Strutt and Parker said this could lengthen the cropping season and increase the land’s value to future purchasers.
“Overall, this is a useful opportunity for land managers to consider where there are ways to better utilise the commercial value of their natural assets and increase business resilience in the face of widely fluctuating seasons.”
Mr Martin said farmers can apply for grants to help pay for the construction of a water storage reservoir and its associated infrastructure, or for best practice application equipment, such as software, sensors and boom and trickle systems.
The scheme is competitive, so applications will be assessed to see how well they fit the priorities for funding and which projects provide best value for taxpayers’ money.
Under the forestry productivity part of the scheme, applicants must be private forest holders, managing at least 10ha of forest or a small- to medium-sized forestry contractor business.
The minimum grant you can apply for is £35,000, which can fund up to 40% of eligible costs.
Equipment available under the scheme includes harvesters, forwarders, timber trailers, cranes, grabs and winches.
Processing equipment such as log splitters, kindling machines and an area to store and season timber may also be eligible.
The deadline for applications under both schemes is 3 April 2018.