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  • Harriet Bell

Notes from discussion on the theme of Protection from & Mitigation of Environmental Hazards

On Thursday 11th of June the volunteer farmer Advisory Team had a call to discuss how they would like ELMs to approach the public good theme of "Protection from and Mitigation of Environmental Hazards". The notes from that discussion are available below., we used action areas from the government's 25 Year Environment Plan to frame the discussion.


Air pollution looking at the Commons:

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Rewetting peat

  • Swaling creates a problem but is essential for vegetation management, limit swaling in preference for grazing.

  • Increase in grazing livestock to effectively control vegetation. The green way!

  • "One of the main effects of nitrogen deposition is a reduction in species richness in UK vegetation. The effects have been shown experimentally and in surveys to be associated with the total annual deposition of reactive nitrogen, but the deposition of gas phase ammonia has been shown to be more damaging to moorland and bog plant communities per unit nitrogen deposited." – Defra Agricultural emissions 2018 So is NO deposition impacting upon current vegetation growth rates on the common?

  • Plant trees along roadsides.

Air pollution on Farm:

  • Muck storage and management.

  • Ammonia emissions from livestock can be reduced by planting shelter belts of trees around livestock buildings.

  • Support fro wood fuel boilers - run efficiently on dry wood and offset by tree planting, support for biomass, hedge management and coppicing.

  • Vehicles - support move to electric farm machinery.

  • Support for renewables on farm.

  • Farm house - look at options available for heating, electric.

  • No/low tillage methods adopted.

  • Livestock breeding and feeding to reduce methane production from livestock.

  • Prohibiting the free surface spreading of liquid manure - support alternative methods like trailing shoe.

  • Infrastructure funding for covering dung heaps.

Wider notes on Clean Air theme:

  • Need clear government guidance on carbon foot printing and measurement of pollution.

  • Lichens are an indicator of clean air on Dartmoor.

Fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide use looking at Common:

  • Bruising versus spraying - choice must be informed decision based on local wildlife and weather. Access is a problem for bruising.

  • Support for developing and trialing new management approaches.

Fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide use looking on Farm:

  • Education an improved knowledge on all and following appropriate guidelines.

  • Couldn't avoid field margins (i.e. leave them as a buffer) because field sizes are so small.

  • Better waste management infrastructure support.

  • Use of lime to maximize nutrient uptake. (Access is a challenge, be great to have specialist kit created to lime Dartmoor.)

  • Support for nitrogen fixing leys.

  • Regular soil testing support.

  • Not spraying unproductive areas that are good for wildlife.

Contamination of water sources, including by road runoff looking at Commons:

  • Road drains connected to soakaways as opposed to running straight into water courses.

  • Improve river/water feature/wet area crossing points used by stock.

  • Block peat cuts and gullies effectively rewetting areas which would low run off and erosion.

  • Look at reinstating old water features that would have taken excess water.

  • Clean and maintain existing water courses.

  • Mend clapper bridges over small streams/leats.

Contamination of water sources, including by road runoff looking on Farms:

  • Fence water courses where appropriate and look at engineering drinking places to minimise stock spending time in the river.

  • Stocking rates.

  • Rewetting areas to slow water leaving the land.

  • Improve yard manure fertilizer applications and timing.

  • Funding for dirty water infrastructure.

  • Permanent pasture - less run off but may be compacted, therefore suitable equipment made available to deal with compaction e.g. slitter.

  • Concrete repair and installation with effective dirty water systems installed, with advice and funding.

  • Leats and water are opportunities for renewable energy be great to have support for hydro.

  • Better support for water testing on farm.

  • Drinking stops in the river made using existing rocks supported with capital payment.

  • Fencing of water courses.

  • Separating clean and dirty water in the yard.

Wider notes on Contamination of Water theme:

  • Challenge around responsibility and liability when it comes to water.

  • Challenge around vegetation cover which can channel stock into limited water/wet area crossing points exacerbating erosion.

  • Catchment Sensitive Farming was an excellent scheme, the only problem was capital fund limit.

Tackling invasive non-native species on Common and farm:

  • Remove with whatever means necessary and appropriate.

  • Know what they are, where they are and have a key contact for consultation e.g. Devon County Council have a Japanese Knotweed eradication scheme. Run through list of current invasives, many of which not previously aware of.

  • Remuneration for the time taken to deal with invasives or provide finance so this work can be contracted out.

Managing and reducing existing plant and animal diseases, including rise of antimicrobial resistance on Commons:

  • Minimal use on our sort of animals anyway but monitor and vet consultation.

  • Ticks - bracken/vegetation. Whilst some studies were undertaken, there has been no development of ensuring the availability of the vaccine for louping ill. Either control the ticks by controlling the vegetation or provide compensation for livestock losses due to ticks. Native hefted flocks more resistant.

  • Scan and lice the Sheep Association are heavily involved in.

Managing and reducing existing plant and animal diseases, including rise of antimicrobial resistance on Farm:

  • This is a UK wide scheme we are often associated with large scale units that may well use antibiotics more frequently than most moorland farmers. Perhaps our the benefits of our farming approach could be recognised?

  • Animal health schemes are a good way forward.

  • Training for effective antibiotic use on farm.

  • Double fencing to keep dogs from livestock.

Wider notes on managing and reducing existing plant and animal diseases:

  • Push back to government on better policies for dog worming, neospora management and other dog problems.

Ammonia emissions:

  • Good and appropriate muck management and storage with use of the right technology.

Soil health – erosion, compaction and decline in organic matter on Commons:

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Manage areas at risk from public footfall and stock damage.

  • Slow run off.

  • Restricted in what we can do due to need to respect archaeology.

  • Erosion often caused by footfall widening of paths helps or enabling diversion to allow for restoration.

  • Organic matter can be increased by an increase in livestock.

Soil health – erosion, compaction and decline in organic matter on farm:

  • Education on fertilizer, muck and ground management. Healthy soils are best outcome for all.

  • Carbon sequestration.

  • Regular soil testing and monitoring.

  • Support for permanent pasture.

  • Clearly defining what is good for your site - clear objective about desired condition and appropriate management.

Wider notes on soil health:

  • Inconsistency in advice coming through from different sources.

  • Better understanding of Dartmoor's geology and soil maps collated and presented.

Movement of people e.g. increase risk of transportation of diseased plant matter, pathogens etc.:

  • Education - clean boots, don't litter, pick up dog mess and take it with you when you leave, don't leave it where your car was parked.

  • Fly tipping - heavier fines.

  • Sometimes a need for restriction and or exclusion for a very specific reason and set time period to be clearly explained.

Flooding and drought (largely to be covered in Climate Change theme) on Common:

  • Rewetting, carbon sequestration and better soil health.

  • Already suggested leat and water course management but need to have clear understanding of responsibility and liability.

Flooding and drought (largely to be covered in Climate Change theme) on Farm:

  • Hold water back.

  • Rain water harvesting, cover yards, muck and silage pits.

  • In wetter more unproductive areas put in lagoons/ponds and wet areas to slow run off.

  • Reintroduce beavers but only if they can be managed if they end up in problematic places.

What would encourage collaboration?

  • Shared machinery such as slitters, mobile sheep dip.

  • Define the area but enable each farmer individual choice over actions.

  • Share health and safety equipment.

  • Financial support for capital expenditure brings people together.

  • Facilitation, advice and funding package tied together.

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Advisory Team Meeting Notes

The Advisory Team met virtually on the 10th of September with the intention of developing solutions to the problems identified with commons agreements as outlined in this blog: www.dartmoorhillfarmpro

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