Supporting farmers to help the environment

Hazel Leah of Northumbrian Water with farmer David Park


Farmers in Northumberland are being offered an opportunity to take advantage of grants to help them protect and improve water quality and modernise their farms and equipment through a scheme run by Northumbrian Water.

The Pestiwise programme has been designed to encourage people working near or around rivers in the Tynedale area, especially farmers, to help improve water quality and meet environmental standards. By working together with farmers, Northumbrian Water is keen to reduce levels of pesticide that enter watercourses.

The company is supporting changes in the ways farmers spread slug pellets, and encouraging a change in the type of pellets they use, both of which are key to meeting environmental standards.

The company is looking to work with farmers in the areas around the Whittle Dene reservoirs, in the Tyne Valley, building on work that has already started to gain support in the Warkworth area, with grant funding on offer to help with the purchase of specialist equipment.

Farmers in the area can apply for grants of up to £15,000 to cover up to 75% of the cost of precision slug pellet spreading equipment.

David Park, of Buston Barns Farm, Warkworth, received a 75% grant from Northumbrian Water towards a new spreader that cost around £5,000 and believes the equipment has made big differences in the accuracy of his pellet distribution.

He said: "The ability to accurately spread the slug pellets means that we can play a greater part in reducing the potential impact upon the river from our farming practices, plus it actually gives a more even spread, improving the results we get with the crops."

The spreader, he says, is easier to fill and blows through distribution heads that have greater accuracy than more traditional scattering equipment. Additionally, it has the ability to shut off one side of the spreader, allowing him to drive closer to the river and spread the pellets away from the water.

David said: "We previously had a cab-mounted slug pelleter, which wasn′t very successful, so the opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of purchasing something that improves the process, from filling to distribution, and plays a part in improving water quality, was too good to miss.

"It′s definitely something more farmers should consider."

Buston Barns Farm is a LEAF Marque farm, recognising that its food has been grown sustainably, with care for the environment.

Advice and guidance is also being offered through the five-year programme, to help farmers make a significant contribution to the work in a way that also benefits them. Pestiwise offers support including assessments of current pesticide use, management and handling, guidance and solutions to reduce pesticide entering water, training, and more.

Hazel Leah, Northumbrian Water′s Rivers Coquet and Tyne Catchment Officer, said: “Driving up the quality of the water in our rivers can offer advantages to all of our customers, as it can reduce the costs associated with treating the high quality drinking water we provide and help those farmers to spend less on their crops.

“The environmental standards accept pesticide levels in treated water up to the equivalent of one grain of wheat within 390 tonnes, so better equipment and awareness of the changes that can help will all play a part in achieving this very low threshold.

“We want to work with farmers, advising, guiding and supporting them to help us meet these standards in a way that also supports their activity and modernises their farms.”

Anybody interested in accessing the grant scheme can find out more at

For media information, contact Paul White on 0191-3015325.

Farmers can support efforts to improve the environment in a number of ways, through best practice including -

• Calibrating their slug pellet spreader before use;
• Brushing the spreader down in the field away from gateways, headlands and not above land drains;
• Keeping the applicator under cover or away from rainfall;
• Not applying pellets within six metres of a watercourse, when heavy rain is forecast or when land drains are flowing.

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