A pioneering project to dewater slurry, allowing it to be transferred across the country as fertiliser pellets, could help Welsh dairy farmers to overcome the problems associated with working in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs).
The scheme, led by Coleg Sir Gar’s Gelli Aur agricultural campus and Power and Water, a Swansea-based company specialising in electrochemical-based water treatments, removes air and water in slurry, reducing its overall volume by up to 80 per cent.
The water extracted from the slurry is purified, allowing it to be recycled or discharged into a watercourse, while the nutrients are used to produce good quality fertiliser.
Sue Evans, director of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust Cymru, told Farmers Guardian she believed the project could be used as a way to prevent nitrate pollution and encourage more dairy farmers to get involved in agri-environment schemes after Brexit.
“I feel we have got to do this with dairy farmers, because in Pembrokeshire in particular, the threat ‘if you do not self-regulate, we will regulate’, hangs over them”, she said.
“You can talk about bigger slurry stores, but all that does is put the problem off until a little bit later in the year.
“This would be a potential solution in those areas. We have got wagons coming to us from the Eastern Counties with straw, so we need to look at whether there is any possibility of anything going back in the other direction.
“Would the muck once dewatered be a good enough commodity to afford taking it across?”
Ms Evans also suggested increasing the amount of mixed farming taking place would help to deal with the problem of excess slurry.
“If you look at where arable was back in the 1970s and 80s, there was far more in Wales than there is now”, she said.
“There is potential for putting more arable back in, which could have a significant impact on biodiversity, but it could take up the muck from dairying too.
“Potentially we have got a huge resource there to grow with very little chemical fertiliser.”
Welsh Government has been supportive of the dewatering project, supporting it with funding, but now Ms Evans is calling on Ministers to introduce a pilot scheme which would allow Welsh dairy farmers to take advantage of the technology.