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Crucial survey to help secure water access

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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is urging soft fruit, protected salad and ornamental growers to take part in a crucial water usage survey to generate robust data about how these sectors of the industry source their irrigation water and how security of supply could be affected by forthcoming abstraction legislation changes.

With changes due to be implemented over the next four years, AHDB’s Horticulture and Potato divisions are concerned that growers may not have access to sufficient water in some areas to maintain and grow their businesses.

“There is still an opportunity for the industry to inform policy, and the way it is implemented, to secure adequate water supplies,” says AHDB board member and grower Martin Emmett. “However, the current lack of reliable data about water use is hampering the industry’s ability to provide sufficient evidence for policymakers.”

Water is vital to agriculture and the horticultural and potato sectors have the highest requirements as irrigation is key to achieving the necessary yields and quality standards to satisfy retailer specifications.

“The Horticultural sector is particularly vulnerable to any changes in the volume and continuity of water supplies,” says Martin.  “It is vital we generate detailed data that reflects the wide range of crops, business types, geographical locations and ways of obtaining water. By building as clear an understanding as possible of our water use, this AHDB survey aims to provide an evidence base.”

AHDB Horticulture’s research and knowledge exchange manager Anne Stone explains; “Some crops, such as those grown under protection, are completely dependent on irrigation, others may need it at particular stages. For the first time we hope to be able to quantify the typical net financial benefits of irrigation as a result of increased yield and improved product quality.

“As well as helping provide evidence, this project will lead to a grower guidance document outlining abstraction changes, how to keep abreast of their impacts in different catchments and types of business; and the changes businesses can make to help offset the impacts of proposed reforms.

“I urge growers to take the time to complete our survey and play their part in ensuring that our industries are able to secure adequate access to water in the future.”

The AHDB survey will roll out in January and February 2016 and growers will be contacted directly by the contractor Ricardo Energy & Environment – a leading global sustainability consultancy. An online survey will also go live in late January. All survey data will be anonymised. Please visit the AHDB Horticulture website for the link to the survey horticulture.ahdb.org.uk.

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