Don’t neglect field drain maintenance

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Drain maintenance has been ignored for too long, AHDB’s Warrington Monitor Farm group heard on 7 November 2018.

In some years, field drainage can make the difference between having a crop to harvest and a complete loss, as well as being able to travel the land or not.

Robert Cross, who runs Clifflane Farm in partnership with his father and hosts Warrington Monitor Farm, said: “Drainage has often been neglected in recent times since grants have fallen. Also, soil health and conditions have become much bigger topical issues. So, we wanted to analyse what’s cost-effective and what type of system might work best on my farm or on other people’s farms nearby.”

Good drainage helps soil management and reduces the loss of nutrients and sediments to watercourses.

But the loss of labour and grants from farms has meant maintenance has fallen by the wayside, said Judith Stafford, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager. This in turn causes problems for production and the environment.

The session in Warrington was led by independent drainage consultant Neville Pearson and Monitor Farm host Robert, discussing drainage systems suitable for Cheshire and Lancashire soils and some practical ideas for ongoing drain management.

For Robert’s farm and others nearby, Neville told the group, mole drainage is a good emergency technology but not suitable as a long-term solution, because of the soil types.

Robert said: “We learnt that the key component is making sure outfalls are working well and are well maintained. That enables you to keep low spots drier and free of water. I’ve also learnt some tips about keeping rigid or solid pipes at the end of outfalls to prevent the pipe drooping into the water.

It’s important to keep drain outfalls free from debris, the group heard, but it’s a job that’s often forgotten.

For more information on drainage, download the AHDB Field drainage guide

The next meeting at Warrington Monitor Farm, at St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre on 13 December, will focus on choosing a profitable rotation and making a profit from break crops.