Pro Operator

Grants help farm to step up water protection – Spring 2020 edition


Farmer and sprayer operator Andrew Symonds has used water company funding to make a wide range of improvements to water protection measures, including roofing and bunding his spray store, as well as funding grass margins.

Andrew Symonds, who farms at Lincomb, near Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, has taken advantage of Severn Trent’s STEPS scheme, which offers capital grants of up to £5,000 per holding, to make a number of improvements to his spraying operation and help address water quality issues.

A fourth generation family business with other enterprises including business units and an equestrian centre, Lincomb comprises 300ha of arable and root crops, farmed by Andrew and one full time employee.

It was a passing visit by Severn Trent’s Agricultural Advisor Susey Bamber that set the farm on the road to using STEPS.

“When she turned up I wondered what we had done wrong!” he says. “But Susey explained about the scheme and the range of developments that could be funded.”

Susey noticed our Fendt tractor had a satellite receiver. She explained the system could be upgraded to RTK positioning to further increase its accuracy, using the Farmer Innovation option under Round 2 of the STEPS scheme to cover 50% of the installation cost for the cab module.

“We completed the paperwork just in time for the 2014/15 application window, and RTK has made a big difference to our operations,” says Andrew.

Tractor with Vicon sprayer

Funds for margins

Funding applications can be made in successive years (rounds) of the scheme, so the next one helped with 6m grass margins alongside the arable crops, which protect ditches and ponds from run-off and soil erosion. Lincomb already had 6.6ha of margins which had been established under the ELS before the business came out of that scheme and it was agreed that these could be transferred to STEPS.

“I sent some photos and filled in the forms, and we get £1,250/ha for them over five years,” he explains. “They have to be in place for the five years; but there’s more flexibility than in the ELS because we can mow the margins and they can be used by horse riders from the equestrian business.”

Using funding from the 2017/18 and 2018/19 rounds of the scheme, Andrew then upgraded his existing sprayer filling area, covering it with a roof and fitting a roller shutter door for security, and adding a biofilter to process washings collected from a drain in the new bunded concrete floor.

Chemical store

“We had plenty of help and advice from Susey, including the services of a consultant on choosing the right equipment and design of the store,” Andrew explains.

The slight natural slope of the floor was utilised with a drain offset along one side; beneath the floor are two sumps, one for the silt trap and the other housing the pump to the biofilter, supplied by D&H Group. Filtered liquid can be pumped out and irrigated onto a paddock behind the shed.

“The sprayer is parked in the dry and there is no risk of any residues on the outside washing off in rain and causing point source pollution. The store also houses the farm’s main diesel tank, so the roller shutter provides added security for fuel as well as safeguarding chemicals,” Andrew comments.

“This cost around £12,500 – including the roof, concrete, biofilter, doors and timber and £10,000 of it was paid for using two years’ funding; we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the grant and it offers so many benefits in addition to the improved protection of watercourses.

the new washings area

How to apply for STEPS funding

Applications for funding through the STEPS scheme are now open, but will close on 31st January 2020.

  • Visit Severn Trent Water to find out if your farm or land is in a priority catchment
  • Read the STEPS options list brochure on the website to find out more about the wide range of options you can apply for, or, contact your agricultural advisor to discuss what is best for your farm
  • Once you have decided on the most suitable solutions, you can apply online to Severn Trent Water HERE 

 Top tips for a STEPS application

  • Focus on water quality: This is still the most important part of the STEPS scheme and applications will be prioritised by how much they address a key pollutant in a specific catchment.
  • Biodiversity options are a bonus: These don’t count towards the £5,000 funding limit. To be eligible for a biodiversity option, you must also apply for a water quality option, or have previously been awarded a STEPS grant that addresses the key pollutant issue in your catchment e.g. pesticides.
  • Speak to your agricultural advisor.

Grant availability in other areas

Other water companies, across the UK, also run schemes that help farmers fund ways to protect water. More information can be found HERE

Your local Catchment Sensitive Farming officer should be able to provide advice on what is available in your local area.

An updated list of the local contacts can be downloaded from the following PDF attachment:

(click on the relevant link to take you straight to email)

Alternatively contact your local company’s catchment management to find out more about what it can offer.

You can download their contact information in the following PDF (click on each link to take you straight to email)

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