United Utilities is running an online reverse auction for winter cover crops in the Cheshire region.
Last year around 12 per cent of eligible farmers took part in the auction and successfully bid for close to £20,000 of funding to grow cover crops and save a total of 7,500kg of nitrogen, according to United Utilites.
It is running the auction, which opened this week, in partnership with EnTrade, an online platform that facilitates environmental improvements. Farmers who have land within the seven safeguard zones, in and around Cheshire, can take part by placing a bid for the price they are willing to be paid to sow the crop. The safeguard zones surround boreholes from which United Utilities extracts water.
A spokesperson for United Utilities said: “We were really pleased with the response last year. Many farmers who took part said the auction gave them the incentive to try a new land management technique that they had been considering for some time. The soils in the area can be very sandy and cover crops are a good way of improving the organic matter in the soil which in turn helps retain nutrients that subsequent crops can then use.”
Cover crops planted over the winter take up the nitrates which remain in the soil after harvest, preventing them from leaching into the groundwater when it rains and affecting water quality in the catchment area, according to United Utilities.
The auction, which closes on June 28, allows the price United Utilities pays to be determined by the farmers who participate based on their price per hectare and the resulting nitrogen saving. Farmers interested in taking part should contact Jack Norris at JNorris@Cheshirewt.org.uk or 07837 465 110 or visit: www.entrade.co.uk
During the auction farmers will be able to see where their bid sits in comparison to others. Once the auction has closed successful bidders will be contacted, says United Utilities.