Farming News - Severn Trent asks how would you use £5,000 to protect the farm environment?

Severn Trent asks how would you use £5,000 to protect the farm environment?

10 Nov 2020
Frontdesk / Arable / Finance

This winter, farmers in the Midlands could receive up to £5,000 of match funding to help protect water and the environment as part of the Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS) which is open for applications until 31 January 2020.

Dr Adam Freer, senior catchment management scientist at Severn Trent, explains that the company has pinpointed key issues of concern in each of its 44 priority catchments and is encouraging farmers to choose funded options that prevent pesticides, nitrates or cryptosporidium reaching water.

“Farmers can choose from an array of funded items, but to ensure your application is competitive, we’d strongly recommend choosing a priority item for your specific area. These could include a pesticide washdown area, cover crops or livestock fencing, to name a few,” he says.

“Applicants will also have the chance to come up with their own innovative ideas to tackle these key issues through the farmer innovation option.”

Adam explains that, for Severn Trent, working in collaboration with farmers is mutually beneficial for both parties. While STEPS-funded investments can improve farm productivity and protect the environment, the benefit to water quality also reduces treatment costs and therefore keeps customer bills as low as possible.

Top tips for applying

  1. Find out if you’re eligible using our priority catchment map www.stwater.co.uk/steps
  2. Speak to your local agricultural adviser to find out what the priority issue and funding options are in your catchment
  3. Visit www.stwater.co.uk/steps to fill out your application
  4. Focus your application on priority items for the best chance of being accepted
  5. If you hope to apply for a biodiversity option in our spring round of STEPS, ensure you apply for, or have historically received funding for, a priority item

Priority items

Pesticide catchment areas:

  • Pesticide washdown areas, including roofing
  • Grass margins
  • Biobeds and biofilters
  • Alternative weed management in grassland fields
  • Precision pesticide application equipment

Nitrate catchment areas:

  • Cover crops
  • Grass margins

Cryptosporidium catchment areas:

  • Livestock fencing along watercourses
  • Hard bases for drinking troughs
  • Roofed livestock handling and manure storage areas
  • Constructed wetlands

Using STEPS to aid in arable reversion

One mixed farmer who has previously benefited from STEPS is Leamington based Robin Davies, who received funding to help install over 1,100m of livestock fencing and gates.

“We used a contractor to put in fencing 1.5m either side of two hedged ditches that carry water from the Leam and Itchen rivers. This not only helps keep the flock of 200 North Country Mules safe from the ditches, but also protects against bacteria and nitrates from the sheep entering the watercourse,” he says.

As a result of this, Robin has been inspired to plant trees inside the fence line to create habitats for other species to inhabit while improving shelter for the sheep.

“We farm in a very traditional manner, and conservation is close to our hearts. We don’t use any fertiliser and keep sprays to a minimum, that works well for both us and the local environment.

“The arable reversion to pasture should help to improve soil fertility and microbial activity for future crops but will also benefit the sheep by providing a ‘clean’ un-grazed pasture.”

Robin adds that he is very grateful for the help from Severn Trent and in particular his local agricultural adviser, Marion, who first introduced him to STEPS and helped him on the application journey. In the future he may also consider applying for a STEPS biodiversity grant to contribute to his wild bird seed cover strip.

For more information or to apply please visit www.stwater.co.uk/steps.