Farmers to help improve lowland peat soils as part of new projects

Seven projects in the north of England have been awarded funding to improve lowland peat soils (Photo: Defra)
Seven projects in the north of England have been awarded funding to improve lowland peat soils (Photo: Defra)

The government has announced the recipients of £1.3m worth of awards to improve lowland peat soils, with farmers set to play a major role.

The seven projects, all based in the north of England, will use the funding to improve the management of water on lowland peat.

One project which has received £330,000 worth of funding will see Lancashire Wildlife Trust roll out a wetter farming trial and a feasibility study.

Wetter farming, an alternative name for paludiculture, is the productive use of wet peatlands; a land management technique to cultivate crops on wet or rewetted peatlands under conditions that maintain the peat body.

Proponents of the technique say it could help reverse centuries of peatland degradation and destruction from intensive, drainage-based agriculture.

Helen Earnshaw, peat project officer at Lancashire Wildlife Trust, said: "We are really excited to have been awarded this funding which will help us expand our work looking at wetter farming practices on lowland agricultural peat.

"We know that many conventional farming practices need to change, but the farming community need to know what will and won’t work before they can make the shift to more sustainable farming techniques.

"This funding will allow us to undertake a farm-scale wetter farming trial, on a real working farm, providing vital data and evidence for both farmers and policymakers."

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was awarded £340,000 for a project focused on the technical and economic implications of raising water levels on seven farms, enabling farmers to make informed decisions about long-term land use.

And Mersey Rivers Trust was awarded £55,000 to develop knowledge of the current condition of the lowland peat soils and explore whether wetter farming is a viable option.

Philip Duffy, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said he was 'encouraged' by the number of applications to the Lowland Agriculture Peat - Water Discovery Pilot.

"Over the coming year, evidence from these local collaboration pilots will be the first step in understanding costs, benefits and risks from changing water management within lowland agriculture peat soils.

"The pilots will produce costed water-management plans, which will help us to balance our aims to reduce climate change impacts and flood risk, improve biodiversity and support sustainable agriculture."