Effective collaboration between farmers and environmental scientists needed - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Maddie Evans, Tillingbourne Road, Guildford.

It’s time to improve the relationship between farmers and environmental scientists.

Hurrah for the NFU for highlighting the need for improved plans for protecting farming businesses from flooding.

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We will all benefit from a proactive watercourse management approach from the Environment Agency; rebalancing the Flood Defence Grant to better protect rural communities and fair payments for flood storage services on any farmland where farmers lose crops rather than towns being flooded.

Farmers harvesting wheat in fields. PIC: Tony JohnsonFarmers harvesting wheat in fields. PIC: Tony Johnson
Farmers harvesting wheat in fields. PIC: Tony Johnson

Happily, we don’t have to wait for the politicians to get going on flood alleviation measures. Some flood reduction measures are controlled by the farmers themselves, but we need to improve the currently strained relationship between environmental scientists and farmers so they can work together to make this happen faster.

Actions such as replanting and restoring field boundary hedges, where they would get advice, free trees and even volunteer labour from the county wildlife trusts just by asking.

Small areas of wetland can protect rivers from farm run-off and university teams have helped to design these in the Wye Valley.

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In Norfolk there is a program to find and excavate field ponds, a tiny percentage of farm areas, but a huge biodiversity gain. Existing wood and uplands will even regenerate naturally if the deer and rabbit populations are controlled, as has been seen in Scotland where trees reappear rapidly if populations fall below five deer per square kilometre.

Deer numbers are increasing nationally, and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation has called for collaboration at a landscape scale. There are many qualified people in our rural communities who could manage this.

Flood action, conservation, and climate change mitigation, all depend on engagement and contributions from the farmers in our communities.

Many improvements do not require existing farmland to be taken out of production, while some improve soil quality and crop yields.

The NFU can show real leadership by supporting more effective collaboration between farmers and environmental scientists across the whole country. They will be pushing on an open door.