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We're working with farmers to improve the quality of our water at the source.

Although we remove a variety of substances from our water before it reaches customers' taps, it's better for the environment if we can improve the quality of the water at source.

That's why we're trialling ways to reduce the amount of nitrogen that reaches our underground aquifers by helping farmers to sow special plants, known as cover crops, to use up leftover nitrogen after farmers' main crops have been harvested.

Working in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming, Natural England and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South East, the results of these trials will help shape the future of our catchment management work and lead to long-term improvements to groundwater quality.

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Come to our free farm workshop

8 February 2022, near Basingstoke, Hampshire.

We're holding a free on-farm workshop about cover cropping and the future of farming, click the button below to sign up.

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Follow the progress of last year's trials at two farms in Basingstoke.

The Oil radish, Rye, Linseed and Phacilia mix produced strong roots - great for breaking through compacted soil

19 January 2021 - Malshanger

As the cover crop trials for this year draw to a close, Farm Manager, Ian Margetts, reflects on the success of the four trial plots:

"This year has been a very good year for cover crops at Malshanger, with the exception of mix 3 (Rye and Vetch). We managed to plant them in good soil conditions if a little later than planned due to the wet weather during harvest.

I hope the results of the porous pots support the importance of sowing these crops to capture nitrogen and improve soil structure. I will certainly continue to use these crops in the rotation."

18 January 2021 - Folly Farm

In the foreground of this photo is the mustard which is still growing well although becoming quite woody.

The recent frost has caused the beans (seen in the background) and the Berseem Clover to die back, while the Radish and Turnip Rape have grown strong roots, although they are quite small.

Spring Wheat will soon be drilled after the cover crops have been destroyed.

Malshanger Estate's cover crops are growing nicely, reaching heights of 30 centimetres amongst the radish and mustard mixes.

14 December 2020 - Malshanger

There has been particularly good growth observed at Malshanger Estate, with the majority of the crops reaching at least 30 centimetres in height.

In particular the radishes and mustard have shown excellent establishment.

Early observations could attribute this to potentially higher residual soil nitrates, though we will have to analyse the porous pot data to be certain.

10 November 2020

Today, we co-hosted a Zoom workshop with FWAG South East about the success of our cover crop trials in the Basingstoke area so far.

During the workshop, which was attended by more than 60 farmers, farm advisors and agronomists, we were joined by guest speakers David Miller, Farm Manager at Folly Farm, about his own experience of using cover crops and Entomologist Sally-Ann Spence about the role of beneficial insects on arable farms.


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L-R - Mustard, Radish and Linseed mixes at Folly Farm

6 November 2020 - Folly Farm

As winter begins to set in the cover crops at Folly Farm have progressed well, showing good ground cover and establishment.

The mustard and oat mix appears to have established best and has shown the greatest level of growth.

The other mixes, though providing excellent ground cover, have not grown quite as rampantly.

22 October 2020 - Folly Farm

As the crops at Folly Farm begin to grow rapidly, South East Water Catchment Advisor Mark Slater talks about his role and why our partnership with farmers in the area is so important for protecting water quality.

3 September 2020 - Malshanger

As Farm Manager, Ian Margetts, sows the cover crops at the Malshanger Estate near Basingstoke, he discusses how using cover crops fulfils his aim of reducing their reliance on bought-in nitrogen.

27 August 2020 - Folly Farm

This year's cover crop mix has just been sown at Folly Farm.

In this short video, Farm Manager David Miller talks about what he's sown and the benefits he's seen from using his own cover crop mixes over the last decade.