Sustainable Water Management
The aim of this summary is to provide information on Defra‟s Sustainable Water
Management programme. The aim of the programme is to optimise water use in
agriculture, and minimise the impact of agriculture on water quality.
Information is provided in five sections: completed and ongoing water quality projects,
completed and ongoing water use projects, and ongoing relevant Defra-funded
projects that pre-date the current programme.
Date issued (May 2007)
1 Sustainable Water Management Projects
1.1 Completed Water Quality Projects
WQ0116: Workshop presentation of a summary of MAFF/Defra research into
agricultural environmental protection (1990 - 2005)
A summary of MAFF/Defra funded research into agricultural environmental protection
carried out over the period 1990 to 2005 is available at
WQ0116 presented the main conclusions from the summary at a workshop in London,
demonstrating how past research has informed policy decision making and discussing
the impact of its main findings on current policy development.
The workshop was organised around the four topic areas of:
Air pollution and manure management
Soil protection and monitoring
Cross cutting issues and strategic priorities in agriculture and the environment.
Further details of the contents of the workshop are available at
Start Date: 29/08/06, End Date: 31/10/06, Cost: £18,000, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
1.2 Ongoing Water Quality Projects
WQ0101: Environmental Footprint and Sustainability of Horticulture (including
potatoes) - a comparison with other agricultural sectors
Environmental footprint analysis provides the most effective way of assessing the
environmental impact of the huge range of different crops and cultivation methods that
are used within the horticulture industry. Environmental footprinting calculates the
impact of a process in terms of the area of natural land needed to offset the activity
using ecological goods and services.
The environmental impact of horticultural production must be considered together with
the economic and social impact on rural communities. In this project, these will be
evaluated using performance indicators for the sustainability (environmental, social
and economic) of horticultural production. Qualitative information gathered from
interviews with key people within the industry will also add to information on the social
impact of horticulture.
Information from the environmental footprint analysis will be combined with insights
from socio-economic studies to provide a more complete picture of the impact of
horticulture than has been previously available.
Start Date: 02/10/06, End Date: 28/10/07, Cost: £103,855, Main contractor: Warwick HRI
WQ0102: Biofiltration - farm based biofilters for air and water
This desk study will assess whether biofilters can be used to control diffuse water and
air pollution from UK farms and nurseries. Diffuse water pollution can occur when
excess nutrients from fertilisers or manure are not used by plants but are washed
through the soil and leach into groundwater or into watercourses.
Biofilters can be used to remove organic and inorganic pollutants such as pesticides
and nutrients, greenhouse gases and ammonia, bad smelling compounds and also, in
water, pathogenic organisms. Biofilters can also be used to reduce biological oxygen
demand (BOD). Biofiltration uses biological organisms such as fungi, plants and
bacteria to „catch‟ pollutants from a stream of air or liquid passing over a culture of the
organism or biofilm.
The research team will review the range, application, and effectiveness of biofilters
that are already being used to control air and water pollutants in industrial, agricultural
and horticultural settings in parts of Europe, America, New Zealand and Asia.
Biofiltration has been used successfully in industrial and agricultural processes
worldwide but has yet to be used widely in the UK.
The study will assess whether biofilters can be used practically on farms and nurseries
and if there are any things that need to be done before UK farmers and growers can
Start Date: 01/04/06, End Date: 31/03/07, Cost: £25,994, Main contractor: Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research (IGER)
WQ0103: The national inventory and map of livestock manure loadings to
agricultural land (Manures-GIS)
WQ0103 aims to produce a national inventory and map of livestock manure loadings
to agricultural land within a Geographical Information System (GIS). This will help to
assess the effects of changes in manure production and management practices on
diffuse pollution pressures on a spatial and temporal basis.
Livestock manures provide a valuable source of nutrients for crop growth and organic
matter that can maintain and enhance soil physical conditions. However, application is
restricted both in time and space by a number of practical constraints and policy
measures. These include soil type and soil moisture deficit, damage to soil structure
and run-off risks, topography and proximity to water courses (surface and ground),
risks of pathogen transfer to food crops and water bodies, crop nutrient requirements,
restrictions on total nutrient applications such as nitrogen within Nitrate Vulnerable
Zones, land management agreements in Environmentally Sensitive Areas under
Countryside Stewardship and part of the rules for the management of organically
Accurate data on the quantities of liquid and solid manures produced and
subsequently returned to agricultural land on a spatial and temporal basis will improve
the ability to assess the effects of changes in livestock numbers, manure management
practices and the impacts of legislation on diffuse pollution losses from agriculture.
Start Date: 01/01/07, End Date: 31/12/08, Cost: £200,088, Main contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WQ0104: Contribution of overland flow on grasslands to diffuse nutrient
Field studies have shown that levels of nitrate leached from grassland can be as high
or higher than those typically leached from under arable crops, but that these levels
are influenced by soil and sward conditions, hydrology and amounts of fertiliser and
manure applied. Soil conditions and precipitation will determine the proportion of water
that percolates through the soil and the proportion that flows over land.
This desk study aims to provide an overview of all available information on diffuse
pollution from managed grassland via overland flow, its mitigation using a range of
technologies and methods and the impacts of these on atmospheric pollution.
Start Date: 01/06/06, End Date: 31/03/07, Cost: £20,820, Main contractor: Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research (IGER)
WQ0106: Cost curves for multiple diffuse pollutants
Diffuse water pollution can occur when excess nutrients from fertilisers or manure are
not used by plants but are washed through the soil and leach into groundwater or into
Previously, research often focused on an individual pollutant such as nitrate,
phosphorus or ammonium and tried to reduce it. However, reducing losses of one
pollutant can have negative effects on others - this approach often leads to an
increase in the level of another pollutant, so called “pollution swapping”.
WQ0106 will develop scientific models for reducing multiple diffuse pollutants at the
same time and will attempt to bring together previous work that has been carried out
on diffuse pollution. The project will ensure that no individual pollution-reducing activity
will have an adverse effect on another pollutant.
This project will take a systems-based approach to studying water pollution, and by
assessing multiple pollutants simultaneously researchers can start to understand the
complexity of how catchments behave, and rationalise this into simple and pragmatic
The project will also assess how catchments might behave in relation to climate
change scenarios, and how rainfall and runoff might change, and what this means for
Start Date: 01/04/06, End Date: 31/03/09, Cost: £1,145,559, Main contractor: Institute of Grassland
and Environmental Research (IGER)
WQ0108: Maintaining cracking-clay experimental platforms (Faringdon,
Boxworth and Rowden)
The objective of this project is to maintain the drainage systems and site infrastructure
at three cracking clay soil experimental platform sites for future experiments on
reduction of diffuse pollution from agricultural land. The combination of cracking clay
soils and organic manure spreading provides the major challenge to diffuse pollution
minimisation from agricultural land.
The „Faringdon‟ facility (Oxford) consists of 18 hydrologically isolated plots (9 arable
and 9 grassland), each 0.19 ha in size. The plots can be managed so that they are
representative of commercial practice. On each plot, surface runoff and drainflow
volumes can be measured continuously, using v-notch weirs connected to electronic
flow measurement equipment.
The ‟40 acres‟ facility at ADAS Boxworth (Cambridge) has 27 hydrologically isolated
plots (12 x 48m in size) under arable cropping. This site has previously been used in
separate experiments to study nitrate, phosphorus and faecal indicator organism
losses to drainage waters following the application of contrasting manure types, and
ammonium-N losses to water following fertiliser N additions.
The „Rowden‟ facility at IGER North Wyke (Devon) has 14 hydrologically isolated plots
under grassland management, with 7 drained and 7 undrained (each 1ha in size)
plots. This site has previously been used in separate experiments to study the
importance of contrasting grassland management practices on nitrate, phosphorus
and faecal indicator organism loss to water, and ammonium-N losses following
fertiliser N additions.
Start Date: 01/09/06, End Date: 31/3/07, Cost: £70,937, Main contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WQ0111: Faecal Indicator Organism Losses from Farming Systems
WQ0111 aims to establish the processes and pathways of faecal indicator organism
losses from farming systems to surface waters, and to identify the relative contribution
of different potential faecal indicator organism loss routes to the overall faecal
indicator organism burden of surface waters, and in turn, bathing and shellfish waters.
Field work will involve identifying sites suitable for measuring faecal indicator organism
concentrations and loads during livestock grazing, following manure spreading, from
farm steadings (i.e. hardstandings and roofs, and septic tanks), solid manure heaps,
farm tracks, stream crossings/drinking areas. The sites will be selected to be
representative of different farming systems, soil types and climate conditions across
England. Six potential sites have been identified for this work: Dairy farm in
Nottinghamshire, Dairy/sheep farm in Northumberland, Dairy farm in Worcestershire,
Beef/sheep farm in Herefordshire, Dairy/beef/sheep farm in Devon and, Dairy farm in
The on-farm measurements will be used to underpin the development of a prototype
farm model of faecal indicator organism sources and loss routes (FIO-FARM) that will
enable their relative importance to be evaluated, and to assess how changes in farm
practices may impact on total faecal indicator organism losses at the farm scale. The
measurements and knowledge synthesised within the FIO-FARM model will be used
to identify practical on-farm methods to mitigate faecal indicator organism losses from
livestock farming to the water environment.
The results of this project will provide robust data to underpin mitigation methods that
may be required to ensure compliance with the EC Bathing Water Directive, the
Shellfisheries Directive and to protect irrigation water quality.
Start Date: 01/01/07, End Date: 31/03/11, Cost: £577,748, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WQ0113: UK-ADAPT - Agricultural Diffuse Aquatic Pollution Toolkit
UK-ADAPT (Agricultural Diffuse Aquatic Pollution Toolkit) is an initiative of ADAS,
UKWIR, Water UK and the Environment Agency, with the full support of Defra.
Considerable research activity is taking place to address diffuse water pollution from
UK-ADAPT began with a website launched in February 2003 (www.uk-adapt.org.uk),
providing a detailed project database for catchment studies relating to diffuse water
pollution from agriculture in the UK. It was envisaged that this database would act as a
valuable resource for funders, policy makers, researchers and practitioners, and the
underlying belief was that active participation on behalf of all stakeholders would bring
many benefits in terms of knowledge sharing and networking. The main purpose of the
UK-ADAPT initiative is therefore to share knowledge between stakeholders, thus
providing a valuable resource for both synthesising existing information and planning
future work on diffuse water pollution from agriculture.
WQ0113 will allow the addition of new projects to the database, as well as ensuring
existing information is up to date, and that the database is promoted to new users.
Start Date: 01/06/06, End Date: 31/03/08, Cost: £20,266, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WQ0117: Calculator tool for estimating N and P outputs by livestock
WQ0117 aims to develop a user-friendly decision support software tool that will
calculate livestock manure nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) output on an individual
farm basis taking account of key components of production, feed selection, and stock
and manure management systems. All but very minor classes of livestock will be
The tool will only require inputs that are readily available to farmers or their
consultants. To assist the user during data entry, default values will be provided for
many of the input fields such as protein content of feeds or production data such as
milk yield for dairy cattle or finishing weight for growing pigs or broiler chickens. These
default value are based on “typical” industry practice. The software will also make use
of defined acceptable ranges and extensive logic checks to disqualify illegal or
nonsensical entries, or advise the user of atypical values.
The calculator will be developed as a “stand-alone” product but will be programmed so
that it can be incorporated into the PLANET decision support software tool if required.
Start Date: 01/01/07, End Date: 30/06/07, Cost: £73,710, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WQ0120: Sediment sourcing in the Demer basin, Belgium - EU diffuse pollution
WQ0120 aims to assemble reliable information on the sources of fine sediment in
suspension and sequestered on the channel bed in the Demer catchment, Belgium,
for the purpose of assisting the targeting of sediment mitigation methods.
Diffuse sediment pollution is a major environmental problem in many European
countries. Sediment is a pollutant but it also transfers nutrients such as phosphorus
and contaminants such as pesticides. Sediment mitigation programmes can help to
reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture. European countries are currently
investigating the mitigation of diffuse pollution using River Basin Management Plans,
as part of the requirements of the Water Framework Directive.
This collaborative research project aims to test the utility of a sediment sourcing
procedure for generating reliable information for assisting sediment mitigation. The
project aims to provide a holistic approach to sediment mitigation, by providing
information on the sources of sediment in suspension and stored on the channel bed.
The information generated by the sediment sourcing exercise will be used to target
appropriate mitigation methods in subsequent phases of work.
Start Date: 01/04/07, End Date: 31/03/08, Cost: £17,005, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
1.3 Completed Water Use Projects
WU0102: A study to identify baseline data on water use in agriculture
This recently completed desk based study provided information on how and where
water is used in agriculture and horticulture.
The total on-farm use of abstracted water is estimated to be in excess of 300 million
cubic metres per year. The report highlights that nearly half of this is used for irrigation
of field crops during the summer months, primarily potatoes, but also field vegetables.
Future research should therefore be focused on finding opportunities to reduce water
use in these sectors.
The report also looked at which areas of the country used the greatest amount of
water. Usage across England was highest in the regions with the lowest rainfall:
Eastern England, East Midlands, South West, and South East. Water is required over
the drier months and is abstracted almost equally from ground and surface water
sources. Agricultural and horticultural production in these areas will need to reduce
water use where possible. This includes nursery stock production and soft fruit
growing especially crops grown under protection.
Livestock use a lot of water, principally for drinking, but there is little opportunity to
reduce volumes without compromising the welfare of the animals.
Start Date: 2/10/06, End Date: 28/9/07, Cost: £103,855, Main contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
WU0103: Scoping studies to identify opportunities for improving resource use
efficiency, and for reducing waste through the food production chain
This six month desk study looked at: water saving opportunities in the industry; energy
saving opportunities in food processing, distribution and retailing; waste reduction
opportunities in food production, processing, distribution and retailing; and integrated
opportunities that covered two or more of the streams identified above. Opportunities
were characterised as low-cost/short-term, medium cost, and long-term, and were
prioritised according to likelihood of take up by the industry and degree of innovation.
The report identified opportunities for reuse and recycling of water and reduction or
treatment of effluent streams. Longer term options for energy involved improving
process design. Opportunities to reduce waste included reuse, recycling and energy
recovery from waste. Integrated opportunities included centralised waste treatment
facilities; sustainable food procurement and corporate social responsibility; together
with the feasibility of enhanced product labelling to include resource use metrics.
The report concluded that quality, safety and hygiene are the top priorities for
production managers and resource use efficiency is a secondary concern especially
as water, energy and waste disposal are relatively low cost commodities.
Few sectors collect data on water use but brewing, dairying, meat processing and soft
drinks manufacture have the most impact on water quality and use. The report
predicts that there is scope for a 30% reduction in water use across the industry.
The report recommended the collection of baseline data on resource use in the food
chain and an audit of research and development activities within the food and drink
Start Date: 01/05/06, End Date: 31/12/06, Cost: £115,560, Main contractor: AEA Technology
1.3 Ongoing Water Use Projects
WU0101: Opportunities for reducing water use in agriculture
This desk study aims to identify research opportunities that will facilitate reduced water
inputs and sustainable agricultural production into the future. The study will be wide
ranging, considering all sectors of agriculture including arable and livestock farming,
and horticulture. Processes to be considered will include plant breeding, irrigation,
washing (e.g. in both livestock and fruit and vegetables), water recycling and water
storage. It is anticipated that irrigation, as the process that consumes a large volume
of abstracted water, will be a major focus of the study. Measures to reduce water use
will take into account potential impacts on product quality and food safety.
The study will review information from the scientific literature on current and emerging
technologies that impact on water use, and will draw upon published case studies
performed at the farm scale or in specific sectors. Additional knowledge in particular
areas will be sought through consultation.
Start Date: 01/04/06, End Date: 30/11/06, Cost: £69,442, Main contractor: Warwick HRI
WU0104: Understanding and influencing positive behaviour change in farmers
and rural land managers
The aim of this project is to investigate the means by which the advice provided by
Defra and its agencies can best be implemented to promote long-term positive
behavioural change in land managers. This will focus specifically on environmental
behaviour with respect to soils, water and waste.
The work is in two parts. The first part consists of: preparation of a scoping paper; a
review of literature; an analysis of the Knowledge and Information Systems of rural
land managers in England; and production of a report on „best practice for
environmental advisory systems‟ to inform the approach taken in the second part of
The second part entails the detailed analysis of six projects, policies, programmes or
strategies aimed at providing advice with respect to soil, water and waste selected in
consultation with Defra. The study involves dividing farmers into three categories:
those who were early to adopt the policy, those who adopted the policy more recently,
and those who have not adopted it all. This will provide a potential resistance
spectrum to policy change and enable greater understanding of factors that lead to
participation after initial resistance. For validation purposes a variety of methodologies
will be involved including one-to-one interviewing, focus group approaches, family
focus groups (to explore issues of family decision-making), an expert workshop and
comparative analysis of the case study results. Both promoters and recipients will be
interviewed within each case study. This will result in a report detailing the case study
findings and focusing on understanding the effectiveness of communication networks
between Defra (and other advisory bodies) and the farming community.
The results will be combined to produce „best practice guidelines‟ for future advisory
approaches in the promotion of pro-environment behaviour with respect to soils, waste
and water. The guidelines will provide advice on communication issues and will
assess the means of monitoring change for future assessment of communication
Start Date: 30/06/06, End Date: 30/11/07 Cost: £119,190, Contractor: University of Gloucestershire
WU0106: Generic approaches to increasing water use efficiency (WUE) in crops
by enhancing abscisic acid biosynthesis
The amount of water required to grow crops needs to be minimised, or the efficiency
with which water is used needs to be maximised. One way to achieve this is to
develop new crop varieties that can maintain productivity with lower water inputs, or
have improved water use efficiency (WUE). The overall aim of this project is to provide
generic technologies for improving WUE in arable, field and protected crops by
engineering and selecting genetic material with increased abscisic acid content.
Abscisic acid (ABA) is a hormone that accumulates in plants tissues under drought
stress and is a key regulatory hormone that controls plant responses to drought. ABA
is required for the closure of stomata, the pores that allow water vapour to escape
from leaves, and carbon dioxide to be taken up for photosynthesis. ABA also impacts
on germination and early growth and to fully exploit the gains in WUE we need to
understand and optimise the relationship between WUE and growth and productivity.
WU0106 aims to produce genetic material and select lines with the optimum balance
between gains in WUE and the ability to maintain overall growth and productivity. This
will provide proof of concept of the utility of increasing ABA content, and define the
expression patterns that are required. Variation in gene expression will be obtained by
both GM and non-GM approaches. The project will also develop root stocks that
produce large amounts of ABA and thereby restrict the loss of water from scions to
which they were grafted. This will be achieved by manipulating the expression of
several genes. Such root stocks will provide a proof of concept for controlling water
use in grafted crops such as fruit trees.
Tomato will be used as a model crop because of its simple genetics and close
relationship to potato, the species that consumes more irrigation water in England and
Wales than all other field crops combined.
The project will deliver strategies for improving crop WUE to breeders and/or
biotechnology companies, and ultimately this will lead to more sustainable crop
production and a reduction in the quantity of water required for irrigation.
Start Date: 01/07/07, End Date: 30/06/11, Cost: £775,750, Main contractor: Warwick HRI
WU0107: Determination of the response of strawberry to water-limited
conditions, identification of quantitative trait loci (QTL) and development of
For long term sustainability the strawberry crop‟s exploitation of irrigation water needs
to be optimised both in terms of irrigation practice and through use of cultivars that are
more water efficient. Different species employ different mechanisms for coping with
limited water but little is known about the potential for tolerance of limited water
availability in the cultivated strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa), or what mechanisms
are involved in drought tolerance. The cultivars in current use were bred without
consideration for water use and their relative drought tolerance has not been
This project will study the response of a range of June-bearing cultivars of strawberry
to limited water availability, in order to identify physiological and morphological traits
that closely relate to water use efficiency (WUE). To be useful for genetic screening, it
is necessary that traits are identified that are relatively economical, quick and easy to
measure that are well correlated with yield and fruit quality under the desired water-
limited conditions, and that have a high heritability. Once the most useful traits have
been determined, protocols will be developed to optimise their use for screening large
numbers of genotypes. This will lead to the establishment of experimental protocols
that will be transferable to other horticultural crops.
Start Date: 01/04/07, End Date: 31/03/12, Cost: £1,076,201, Main contractor: East Malling Research
WU0110: Developing novel water-saving irrigation strategies to produce fruit
with more consistent flavour and quality and an improved shelf-life
Deficit irrigation techniques, including Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI) and Partial
Rootzone Drying (PRD), involve applying slightly less water than the plant needs so
that mild soil water deficits develop. Roots exposed to the drying soil produce
chemical signals that are transported to the shoots where they influence both
vegetative and reproductive growth.
Despite previous unsuccessful attempts, strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) remains an
attractive candidate for deficit irrigation. Irrigation is now essential to ensure the yields
and quality demanded by retailers and consumers but over 50% of the UK crop is
produced in South East and Eastern England where water resources are most
threatened. Project HH3606TX has shown that if deficit regimes are optimised,
unwanted vegetative growth in containerised „Elsanta‟ can be significantly reduced
without affecting yields of Class 1 fruit. The results suggest that RDI offers several
advantages over PRD. Although substantial water savings can be made with both
techniques (up to 66%), yields of Class 1 fruit are maintained only with RDI since fruit
size is often reduced in plants subjected to PRD.
WU0110 aims to develop a novel irrigation technique that incorporates a transient,
targeted drop in shoot turgor to help maximise the production of important bioactives
like vitamin C whilst stimulating the production of key flavour components. To
minimise any effects on fruit size and yields of marketable Class 1 fruit, the critical
stages during fruit development will be identified where a temporary loss of turgor can
be imposed without affecting fruit size. The novel irrigation technique will help to
improve the consistency of quality in fruit harvested at different times during the
Start Date: 01/04/07, End Date: 31/03/12, Cost: £581,090, Main contractor: East Malling Research
2 Ongoing relevant Defra-funded projects that pre-date the current
Water Quality and Use in Agriculture Programme
PE0113: Delivery of phosphorus from agricultural sources to water courses
The routes taken by phosphorus (P) from diffuse agricultural sources within the
landscape to water courses are unknown and hinder the effective mitigation of P
losses from land. P delivery works at the landscape scale and cannot be wholly
resolved by small-scale studies because they are site-specific. Tackling the scaling
issue is critical if we are to derive reliable P delivery coefficients. The challenge is to
bridge the gap between site-specific studies and landscape-scale needs. This can be
achieved by undertaking targeted field and modelling research on the key landscape
functions and field-scale relationships controlling P delivery. Only by using this
combined approach can site-specific research be scaled-up to the catchment in order
to assess the risk that mobilised P actually reaches the watercourse.
The aim of this research is to derive generic P delivery coefficients that can be used in
catchment models developed for Defra such as PIT and PSYCHIC, and in risk-based
approaches such as that developed for grassland catchments.
Start Date: 01/10/03, End Date: 30/09/06, Cost: £449,594, Contractors: University of Lancaster and
University of Sheffield
PE0116: Linking agricultural land use and practices with a high risk of
phosphorus loss to chemical and ecological impacts in rivers
PE0116 aims to identify and quantify the relative impact of selected farming
enterprises and practices with variable phosphorus (P) loss risk on the chemistry and
ecology of selected rivers, and recommend an appropriate indicator of impact potential
that could be applied to other farming systems.
Phosphorus loss in run-off and drainage from agricultural land has been linked to
eutrophication problems in a number of freshwaters. Research has indicated the
farming systems and land management practices which are most likely to lead to high
P losses at the field and farm scale, and the form (soluble or particulate) in which that
loss is likely to occur.
This project aims to develop a better understanding of the linkages between
agricultural P losses from the land surface and impacts in rivers for selected high-risk
farm practices in selected catchment areas. This will be achieved by a comparison of
the chemical and biological status of stream systems affected by agriculture and
stream systems that are not affected by agriculture in each area. Detailed monitoring
of one study catchment will be carried out and the chemical and biological response to
the implementation of a silt and P loss mitigation programme will be assessed.
The research aims to produce an index of „impact potential‟ which might be related to
the relative proportions of soluble and particulate P derived from different farming
practices in different landscape areas.
The results from this project will be used to help quantify the extent to which P losses
from agricultural land might need to be reduced in different areas to comply with the
Water Framework Directive, distinguish the relative importance and contribution of
different farming practices to eutrophication problems for targeting of cost-effective
control measures and assess the implications for development of policy options to
control diffuse P inputs from agriculture.
Start Date: 01/09/03, End Date: 30/08/08, Cost: £498,867, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
PE0118: Co-ordination role for the Defra-LMID phosphorus research programme
This project will coordinate phosphorus transfer research projects in order to integrate
work carried out by different organisations, integrate with international research, and
develop cost-effective and user friendly mitigation options.
Start Date: 01/09/03, End Date: 31/08/06, Cost: £93,181, Main Contractor: Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research (IGER)
PE0120: Phosphorus mobilisation with sediment and colloids through drained
and undrained grasslands
Phosphorus (P) and sediment/colloids both contribute to problems of water quality, in
terms of eutrophication for P and silting of riverbeds and salmon spawning ground for
sediment/colloids. There is particular value in studying them together because P has a
strong affinity for attaching to, and being transported with, sediment/colloids. This
project focuses on P and sediment/colloid losses from grasslands.
This project aims to determine dynamics and mass balances of sheet erosion from
grasslands. The project also aims to develop new technologies to separate and
fractionate colloidal material in runoff and drainage from grassland, as well as new
techniques and new understandings of tracing colloids, with P and carbon (C)
attached, through grassland catchments. It will be necessary to include C to some
degree because P:C ratios may provide an additional basis for tracing and yield
mechanistic knowledge. The project will culminate in a mechanistic model of colloidal
P transfers and delivery through drained soils that can be used as a research tool by
the scientific community and may have broad generic value for other contaminants,
wider than P. Some mitigation options will also be considered.
Start Date: 01/02/05, End Date: 31/07/08, Cost: £801,919, Main Contractor: Institute of Grassland and
Environmental Research (IGER)
PE0122: Modelling the impact of sediment and phosphorus loss control on
catchment water quality
The overall objective is to assess and model the combined impact of voluntary
measures to control sediment and phosphorus loss on water quality in the East and
West Avon tributaries of the Hampshire Avon river.
To achieve cost-effective targeting of mitigation options and strategies, it is essential
to accurately assess agriculture‟s contribution to catchment P loads and to
eutrophication impacts, and to be able to pinpoint specific sources and source areas
of sediment and P loss across the catchment. Catchment-based decision support
tools and models such as PSYCHIC have an important role in providing this
information and the underpinning justification for action on the ground. However, there
is very little information at the catchment scale on the combined impact of land-based
mitigation options with which to calibrate model outputs, and to provide evidence to
the farming community that the measures and improved farming practices that they
are expected to implement will have a desirable impact on nutrient loads and ecology.
Similarly, there has been no attempt previously to distinguish between the numerous
diffuse and point sources present within catchments such that their relative
contribution can be adequately represented by model outputs.
The project will monitor the changes in chemical and biological water quality in the two
catchment areas over a three-year period in parallel with a targeted advisory
campaign for voluntary adoption of sediment and P loss control measures by the EA.
The project will also assess the precise distribution and potential contribution of point
and diffuse sources of P to P losses across both catchments. The spatial distribution
of predicted loss of sediment and P loss before and after implementation of mitigation
options will be assessed together with the overall impacts at the catchment scale. This
information will be used to both improve the model output from the PSYCHIC decision
support system and to inform catchment stakeholders of the likely outcomes.
Start Date: 01/04/05, End Date: 31/03/09, Cost: £352,487, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
PE0201: Impacts of targeted mitigation options on phosphorus loss at the field
and catchment scale
Intensive monitoring of suspended sediment and phosphorus (P) loads within small
rural sub-catchments at ADAS Rosemaund and at New Cliftonthorpe has shown that
particulate-associated P transport in surface run-off and/or tile drain flow from arable
and grassland fields is the major form of P loss. Building on this long-term monitoring
programme, the main objective of this project is to determine the practicality and
effectiveness of measures to reduce this P loss in each catchment.
The measures will be targeted at those areas of the catchment which previous work
suggests will have the most impact. At New Cliftonthorpe, riparian buffer strips will be
implemented to reduce inputs of P in surface runoff from arable and grassland, and
preventing direct contamination of surface water with incidental losses of P following
surface application of manures and from farm tracks. At Rosemaund, a specific critical
source area of P loss will be put down to grass and the impact on sub-surface P loss
in drainflow measured. At both sites a pilot trial will be undertaken to trap particulate P
transported in subsurface flow at the point of discharge into the ditch.
Work will also be undertaken to evaluate the effects of minimum tillage in a selected
area at ADAS Rosemaund and to quantify the role of small areas of semi-natural
wetland on the P dynamics at new Cliftonthorpe. Demonstration plots at 3 sites,
established by the EA in the Hampshire Avon catchment, will also be monitored; this
will provide data to quantify the mitigation of P and sediment loss arising as a
consequence of adopting minimum tillage in place of conventional ploughing.
Start Date: 01/08/00, End Date: 30/06/06, Cost: £645,169, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
PE0205: Strategic placement and design of buffering features for sediment and
P in the landscape
The main aims of this project are to develop greater understanding of sediment and
phosphorus (P) trapping and retention within buffer features, both vegetative and non-
vegetative. The research will aim to produce design guides for buffer features that can
be transferred into best practice. The strategic placement of buffer features within the
catchment and in context to other buffers and land management practices will be
modelled to ensure optimal performance. The knowledge generated from this
research will be used to shape a decision support system that can be used by those
involved in catchment management. Field and laboratory data as well as insights
collected from a literature review and liaison with end-user groups will be translated
into recommendations for maintenance activities to promote buffer effectiveness over
time and space. Focus will also be given to developing a cost-effectiveness matrix for
key buffer features based on the efficiency of pollution prevention in comparison to the
monetary costs of implementation and delivery of multiple environmental benefits. All
the information from these activities will be compiled with literature from experiment
and practice to produce an evaluative review of components of agri-environment
schemes to establish potential buffer functioning and performance.
Start Date: 01/07/03, End Date: 30/06/06, Cost: £239,300, Main Contractor: University of Cranfield
PE0206: Field testing of mitigation options (MOPS)
This project aims to provide advice on the potential for including the most effective
phosphorus (P) mitigation methods within existing or new agri-environment schemes
(including Entry Level and Higher Tier options), and to develop mitigation practice
standards for the most cost-effective methods for use by advisors and farmers.
The project will review published literature on the effective of different mitigation
features for preventing the mobilisation and/or encouraging the trapping of sediment
and phosphorus in problematic agricultural land forms.
The effectiveness and longevity of individual, and combinations of, control measures
representing different levels of farmer intervention, will be assessed, in terms of
mitigating sediment and P loss on three contrasting high risk sites.
The project will also determine the cost-effectiveness of different approaches, and
combinations of approaches, at hillslope scale to refine and update P cost curve
assessments carried out in PE0203. This will include both costs to Government
(Scheme grants) and farmers (profits foregone, cost of implementation and
maintenance, scheme grants).
The project will also provide advice on potential for including the most effective P
mitigation methods within existing or new agri-environment schemes (including Entry
Level and Higher Tier options), and to develop mitigation practice standards for the
most cost-effective methods for use by advisors and farmers.
Start Date: 01/01/05, End Date: 30/06/08, Cost: £448,323, Contractors: ADAS UK Ltd and University
PE0207: PSYCHIC Follow-up - further development of model, testing in new
The INCA-P model is a process based, dynamic model. The model describes the
movement of phosphorus (P) from the land surface through the soils and
groundwaters to the stream. It describes the ecology and chemical transformation of P
in the streams and the downstream transport of P and sediments. The model will be
applied in collaboration with other contractors involved in Defra funded phosphorus
research. The model will be extended to include a riparian zone component so that
buffer strips can be evaluated.
Start Date: 01/10/05, End Date: 30/04/06, Cost: £99,000, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
PE0208: Development of operational guidelines to support safe application of
industrial biosolids to agricultural land based on a phosphorus loss risk index
This project will develop simple, practical guidelines on the management of land
receiving biosolids in areas of different phosphorus loss risk in order to minimise
possible detrimental effects on the quality of surrounding water courses, and support
the beneficial recycling of a widespread resource.
Start Date: 01/10/03, End Date: 31/05/06, Cost: £20,000, Main Contractor: ADAS UK Ltd
HH3608TX: Identification of genetic markers for water use efficiency
HH3608TX aims to improve understanding of the genetic control of water use
efficiency (WUE) in horticultural crops. The project will provide molecular markers to
breeders that will facilitate genetic improvement of WUE in a range of horticultural
crops. The genetic variation in WUE for existing commercial cultivars needs to be
understood. Using advances in crop genomics, crop varieties that use water more
efficiently whilst maintaining yield and quality can be developed.
Using the combined power of the genetic and genomic resources in both B. oleracea
and Arabidopsis, the project will identify the genetic components of WUE, and assign
genetic variation to regions of the genome by Qualitative Trait Loci (QTL) analysis.
QTLs will be resolved and validated, and molecular markers and candidate genes for
WUE identified. The genetic diversity of WUE in both Brassica oleracea and potato
germplasm collections, including commercial cultivars, will also be defined.
The project will deliver:
assay systems for WUE that may be used in a range of horticultural crops
a definition of genetic diversity of WUE in B. oleracea and potato to allow informed
selection of varieties for specific environments and irrigation systems
quantification of the genetic interaction between water- and nutrient-use-efficiency
molecular markers and germplasm suitable for marker assisted selection of B.
oleracea varieties with improved WUE
candidate genes that may be used for improvement of WUE across many crop
Start Date: 01/01/04, End Date: 30/12/08, Cost: £993,771, Contractors: Warwick HRI, ADAS UK Ltd,
SCRI, University of Canberra, University of Cambridge
HH3609TX: Partial root drying: delivering water saving and sustainable high
quality yield into horticulture
Protected cropping offers the opportunity both to save water and nutrient resources
and to use modified supplies of these variables as regulators of growth and
development. This type of „natural‟ growth regulation can replace the widespread use
of growth regulating chemicals. Deficit- or nutrient-induced growth regulation can also
reduce labour costs for the industry. Partial Rootzone Drying (PRD) is a novel deficit
irrigation technique that is designed to enhance water use efficiency (WUE) in crop
production by exploiting the plant‟s long-distance signalling mechanisms that modify
plant growth, development and functioning as the soil dries.
The main objective of this project is to deliver substantial saving of irrigation water in
different sectors of UK Horticulture while maintaining or improving crop quality. This
will be achieved through optimising the use of PRD technology. While many PRD trials
have delivered very positive results, this is not always the case and we seek to
understand why this happens. More information is needed on the basic science of
long distance signalling and the interactive effects of variable climate and rooting
medium with signalling. We will also address the mechanisms that contribute to
changes in yield quality under PRD.
By the end of this project we will have:
demonstrated potential water savings under deficit irrigation in a range of
horticultural cropping systems
quantified the effects of PRD and deficit irrigation on yield, WUE and crop quality
identified the long distance signals that underlie the plant responses to PRD
established the environmental conditions that maximise the benefits of PRD
determined the optimum scheduling for implementation of deficit irrigation
transferred the results of the project to the horticultural industry in the form of a
decision support tool allowing application of PRD across a range of horticultural
developed a LINK consortium to facilitate further implementation within the
Start Date: 01/04/04, End Date: 31/03/09, Cost: £1,117,553, Contractors: East Malling Research,
Warwick HRI, University of Dundee and University of Lancaster
HH3615SPC: Genetic analysis of root traits relevant to water use in horticultural
The purpose of this work is to provide molecular markers that will facilitate genetic
improvement of water use traits in the target crop, potato. The work is directed at root
traits important for capture of soil water under conditions of limited water availability
and towards root-shoot signalling processes that influence sensitivity of crop yield to
There is a widely held view that the drought sensitivity of potato may largely be
attributed to a shallow root system that is not optimal for rain-fed, low input systems
because of the failure to capture water and nutrients at depth. Consequently these
valuable resources are often lost through drainage to local water courses, leading to
inefficient water use and eutrophication. In the future, sustainable production and
organic production are likely to be favoured, with reductions in nutrient inputs
becoming increasingly desirable and water resources more scarce. Under these
circumstances a larger, deeper root system will be required to maximise capture of
water and nutrients from the soil.
The project aims to deliver:
A description of genetic diversity of root traits in both potato and tomato
QTL for root traits that influence water and nutrient use
Molecular markers for selection of Solanaceous crop cultivars with altered water
Start Date: 01/04/05, End Date: 30/03/10, Cost: £638,300, Main Contractor: Warwick HRI
HL0165LFV: Sustainable improvement of vegetable quality, water and nutrient
use efficiency using dynamic fertigation
The aim of this Horticulture LINK project is to increase efficiency of inputs in the
production of perishable field vegetable crops, reduce wastage in the retail sector, and
in line with impending regulatory pressures, to provide an integrated framework for the
precise scheduling and delivery of water and nutrients to the root zone to manage
crop quality, marketable yield and shelf-life. This will be driven by developing an
understanding of the influence of nutrient supply during development on crop quality,
and the physical principles governing the precise application of water and nutrients in
a sustainable way.
Start Date: 01/04/03, End Date: 31/03/07, Cost: £683,616, Consortium: ADC Bioscientific, Anglian
Water Services Ltd, Biohybrids International Ltd, Bomfords, Delta-T Devices, Earthcare Environmental
Ltd, Fairfield Control Systems Ltd, Field (GB) Ltd, Geest PLC, Intercrop Ltd, J E Piccaver & Co
(Gedney Marsh), Kemira Agro Oy, RJM Consultancy, Tesco Stores Plc, Warwick HRI. The
Government sponsors are Defra.
HL0168LHN: Enhancing the quality of hardy nursery stock and sustainability of
the industry through novel water saving techniques
This Horticulture LINK project aims to develop novel ways to apply more effectively
appropriate quantities of water and nutrients to the crop to conserve diminishing water
supplies and manipulate plant growth in order to increase the profitability and
sustainability of the Hardy Nursery Stock (HNS) industry. The project will address
problems of poor uniformity of application of irrigation to container-grown HNS and the
practical application of deficit irrigation and novel chemical (fertiliser) treatments to
control growth and water use. Thermal imaging will be evaluated as a means of
sensing plant water status and compared with other means of monitoring and
controlling irrigation on HNS nurseries. The scope for high precision delivery of water
to HNS in containers will be assessed. A test rig will be built to evaluate the feasibility
of regulating water application to individual plants. Immediate benefits will include
improved operation of existing irrigation/fertigation systems while long term benefits
include high precision systems capable of maximum savings of water and nutrients
combined with reduced crop wastage and variability.
Start Date: 01/10/05, End Date: 30/09/09, Cost: £744,762, Consortium: Access Irrigation Ltd,
Coblands Nurseries Ltd, Delta-T Devices Ltd, Denton Automation Ltd, East Malling Research, Hillier
Nurseries Ltd, Horticultural Development Council, Horticultural Trades Association, Infrared Integrated
Systems Ltd, Johnsons of Whixley Ltd, Notcutts Nurseries, Palmstead Nurseries Ltd, Pera Innovation
Ltd, Skye Instruments Ltd, University of Dundee, University of Lancaster, and Wyevale Nurseries Ltd.
The Government sponsors are Defra.
HP0218: Dormancy and water use efficiency in potato tubers
The generation of crops with significantly reduced water inputs is of high importance to
the potato industry since irrigation water is becoming an expensive and limited
resource in some important areas. Abscisic acid (ABA) plays a pivotal role in water-
relations in plants and their resistance to drought stress. Recent work demonstrates
that it is possible to grow experimental potato and tomato genotypes to yield
harvestable crops in almost dry soil without any signs of wilting. Tolerance of low
water input was achieved through the elevation of endogenous ABA levels.
Research has shown that ABA also has a role in potato tuber dormancy. Preliminary
results have been obtained showing that elevation of ABA levels increased dormancy
time. Significant advantages for the UK potato industry could be generated by
increasing the dormancy period of stored tubers with ABA, a „natural‟ sprout
suppressant. This would avoid the application of sprouting inhibitor chemicals, reduce
cold-sweetening and increase suberisation.
Start Date: 01/07/02, End Date: 30/06/07, Cost: £926,064, Main Contractor: University of Nottingham