Last year saw strong demand for drainage with companies pointing to a growing interest in soil health as a driver.
Will Mitchell, contracts manager at William Moorfoot says his company was operating two to three trenchers as soon as fields were cleared after harvest. “Considering the drought and Brexit it was a nice surprise. A lot of people are wanting to look after soils and you can’t plant wet land efficiently. They are looking to make more of fertilisers and sprays and more air in soils allows chemicals to do the job in near perfect conditions.”
Another reason for the increasing interest in drainage is that drains put in when grants were available in the 1970s and 1980s are starting to fail, says Mr Moorfoot.
Modern drainage techniques, using GPS help to ensure drainage is laid as accurately as possible, improving efficiency of drainage, he adds. “It also improves output [of the drainage operation] bringing down the cost for the landowner.”
Mr Mitchell says the cost of drainage at about £2,500/ha is less than having to buy the equivalent land.
For growers interested in carrying out drainage operations themselves, hiring machinery is an option offered by Shelton, which has seen an increase in demand from the agricultural and sports turf sector, according to director Richard Clark. “Being able to hire equipment as opposed to getting a drainage contractor in means they can do the work when they want to do it and ensure quality. It is very cost effective.”
When equipment is hired, the company sends an operator to train the grower in how to use the machine and laser equipment to ensure they set the correct grades and the trencher can be tractor mounted, says Mr Clark.
“Well drained land can typically benefit from yield improvements of 25-35 per cent and farmers know this. Last year’s wet winter really highlighted any underlying drainage issues. This scheme gives farmers the opportunity to get their drainage done when it suits them and benefit from potential cost savings through using in house labour.”