Monday, 23 December 2013

Reflections on 2013

As 2013 draws to a close it is time to review another year of research and associated dissemination and demonstration activities at and around Loddington, and the first year of this blog.  In January, an Environmental Stewardship option for late winter supplementary feeding became available to farmers.  The decision to do so was largely informed by the results of our long-term monitoring of winter and spring numbers of songbirds at Loddington.  The MOPS project on the development of constructed wetlands to reduce agricultural impacts on water ended this year, in time for the results to feed into plans for new agri-environmental policy.  Towards the end of the year, the results of Susanne Jarratt's PhD thesis on farmers' 'environmentally friendly farming careers' helped to inform the development of the new Environmental Stewardship scheme that will replace the existing schemes in 2015.

The 'School Farm' farm-scale demonstration catchment at Loddington is now well established as a focus for learning and discussing how our lowland landscape 'works'.  We published a conference paper on some initial findings this month*.  Within the landscape scale Water Friendly Farming project, we now have strong baseline data for the base of each of the three catchments, and for approximately 240 sampling sites across the 3,000ha study area.  This must be an unprecedented dataset, covering nutrient and pesticide concentrations, aquatic invertebrates and plants, and fish, with some additional data for birds and pollinators. Two PhD projects are providing further data.  We are also making good progress with putting in place various mitigation measures to improve water quality in the two 'treatment' catchments.  Thanks to all the participating farmers for their support for this work.
The upper Eye Brook catchment, part of the study area for the Water Friendly Farming project.  Our research activities cover a range of scales from field and farm, to landscape, and follow through to management on the ground, and to regional and national agri-environmental policy.
Scaling up to the whole river basin, we are proud to be key players in the Welland Valley Partnership, a prime example of an active and successful partnership between statutory agencies, industry and NGOs.  The partnership continues to provide workshops and one-to-one advisory visits to farmers, and capital grants for measures designed to improve water quality, as well as addressing other issues that are of common interest or concern.

The results of our own research at and around Loddington are at the heart of the numerous workshops and other events held in our eco-build visitor centre at Loddington.  About 1,200 visitors, most of them farmers and farm advisors, as well as regulators, policy makers and students, have benefited from our research through such events in 2013.

Thanks to John Szczur, Jamie Partridge, and our students, interns and research partners for all their hard work during 2013.  In 2014, we will continue to gather data that can guide both practice on individual farms, and policy at regional and national levels of governance.  I will do my best to keep this blog updated with results as they emerge.

* Stoate, C & Szczur, J. 2013. An ecosystem services approach to productive land management in a farm-scale catchment.  Rethinking Agricultural Systems in the UK. Aspects of Applied Biology 121: 35-42.

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