The Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) project is a joint Defra, Environment Agency (EA) and Welsh Assembly Government initiative working in three river catchments – the Wensum in Norfolk plus the Eden (Cumbria) and Avon (Hampshire).
The overall objective of the project is to provide evidence to test the hypothesis that it is possible to cost effectively reduce the impact of agricultural diffuse water pollution on ecological function while maintaining food security through the implementation of multiple on-farm measures across whole river catchments using local expertise to solve local problems. [READ MORE]
What's in the news?
- 07 Jul 2016: Sharing experience of integrated catchment management Catchment management practitioners got together with DTC researchers from the Avon, Eden and Wensum for a day-long meeting at UEA. Ger Shortle told us about the Irish Agricultural Catchments Programme that has been running for nine years. This project evaluates the effectiveness of the Government's Nitrate Actions Programme (NAP) which has stocking rates, N and P limits, slurry storage, spreading constraints, buffer zones etc, that all farmers have to abide by. Ger reported that reduction in stream P concentration took over 6 years to begin to be revealed and indicated that the project was highlighting that education and effective nutrient management advice and information (including encouraging active use of nutrient management plans as a management tool), as well as ensuring that the measures within NAP are being followed, were key to improving water quality. Neil Punchard of the Broadland Catchment Partnership impressed the audience with the volume and breadth of work that has been undertaken to develop the partnership and enhance the catchment in the four years it has been operating. Updates were also given on the DTC research. Afternoon workshops considered how the lessons learned from the DTC work could best be disseminated and the further work needed to overcome barriers to ensure better catchment management in future.
- 05 Jul 2016: Beans up to our ears! Intrepid UEA researchers, deep in a jungle of beans. Searching for soil sampling sites when the growth is this high is no mean feat! The work must go on, testing bulk density, penetration and infiltration rate. With all those woollies who would believe it's July!
- 30 Jun 2016: Royal Norfolk Show The Wensum DTC participated in showcase of UEA research at the Royal Norfolk Show. Examples of oilseed radish plants were grown by Gilla Sunnenberg especially for the ocassion and the stand enjoyed a steady stream of interested visitors throughout the day including UEA Vice Chancellor Professor David Richardson (pictured).
- 04 May 2016: Anglia Farmers Farm Walk 2016 Hosted by Salle Farms, about 80 members took part in a farm tour and heard from Poul Hovesen and Andrew Lovett about how the DTC research is influencing practices on the farm. This was followed by a lovely meal featuring local produce and a lot of lively discussion.
- April/May 2016 Counting Worms The weather was a little cold and the worms were reluctant to come out of the ground, even with encouragement from a warm bath in mustard solution (kindly donated by Colmans). Earthworms are an indicator of soil quality and Wensum DTC researchers wanted to see if there were any significant differences between the numbers of earthworms in the fields that have been part of experimental work with different cultivation methods and cover crops. As the worms declined to cooperate researchers reverted to digging out 25 x 25cm quadrats of soil to a spades depth and then sorting through the soil by hand. Worms were counted, washed and weighed before being returned to the soil unharmed. The data is still being analysed. Watch this space! (If you want to take part in your own worm count, there is a citizen science project at jointhepod.org. For more information go to http://jointhepod.org/campaigns/campaign/51.
- 23 April 2016: Wild About the Wensum Again! This popular event celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and our Wensum Alliance stand had a high number of visitors who were keen to try out the catchment model demonstrating run-off and infiltation, testing river water, tap water and rain water samples nitrate levels, hearing about the DTC work on cover crops and taking part in a 'true/false' game about how oilseed radish can help mitigate water pollution. The youngsters were interested and enthusiastic - catchment scientists in the making!
- 26 Feb 2016: NUTCAT 2050 Meeting at Salle The Wensum and Eden DTCs invited farmers from the Wensum/Blackwater catchment to join experts from the UK Met Office for a meeting to feedback results from the data collected by the Wensum DTC team and to discuss weather trends and understand how changing weather patterns may affect the way we live and farm in the Wensum. The meeting also introduced NUTCAT 2050 (estimating NUTrient transport in CATchments to 2050)– a new project that will examine the role of land use and climate in nutrient runoff and implications for future water quality. Dr. Pete Falloon (Met Office Hadley Centre) compared data from local climate records against observed trends across the country and presented information on projected future climate change and Dr. Mary Ockenden (Lancaster University) led an interesting discussion session examining recent experiences relating to changing weather and how farmers are responding through changes in farming practices.
- 21 Jan 2016: Cover, catch or companion? What are they and how do you best manage them to gain the benefits?
This Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) event hosted by Natural England at Salle village hall invited farmers, particularly those in the Wensum catchment, to exchange knowledge on the use of cover crops to aid soil fertility. Cover crop use is becoming increasingly popular and this workshop focussed on the pro's and con's of their use, with first hand practical on-farm experience provided by Poul Hoveson. The event was attended by a good number of local farmers as well as staff/researchers from Natural England, Wensum DTC, Anglian Water, Agrii, Frontier, NIAB and others.
To read more about what's been happening see our News page.