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Catching the carbon

This is a subject I have to admit I don’t know enough about, so this might just be an article which prompts you to do some research of your own... I’m not sure if the news has global implications, or whether it remains a local problem but the ‘headlines’ for me at present are the references to pollution in Southampton Water and Poole Harbour (see picture below). I’m sure both are real enough – but what is the cause, and what is the solution?

‘Blame’ (if that is the appropriate word) seems to be directed to the run-off of pollutants from the respective catchment areas, which use the streams and rivers to reach the sea. Farming is being looked at as the principal culprit – nitrogen fertilisers on the land being the source. But is problem caused by livestock? Or is it the crops? Can the scientists be sure? New housing development (or perhaps it is existing development) may also be a suspect – by virtue of the drainage it needs and the effluent it produces. I am told detergents and the like create high levels of phosphate in our water. Added to this is the run-off from infrastructure (dirty water from road surfaces into ditches) and from domestic use (the variety of polluting materials that end up going down the average household sink or waste pipe). Or is most of the pollution coming from commercial and industrial sources? Probably all of these are contributors, and no doubt there are more.

Farming practices are being questioned – does ploughing exacerbate this problem, even though regarded by many as a beneficial cultivation for weed control, soil protection and crop production? Does ‘min-till’ (minimum tillage) on the other hand, really help to prevent the escape of gas and pollutants into the atmosphere? What I have not learned enough about yet – or maybe it is still evolving – is the use of ‘land banks’ which I believe are being held as some sort of reservoir to enable the pollutants to dissipate before they enter the rivers and eventually the sea. And there seems to be a new phenomenon whereby developers, local authorities and even investors, can purchase Agreements for Carbon Seqestration, for fairly large sums, from a landowner so that they have the ‘use’ of a large area of land that can be set aside (I’m told for as much as a thirty-year term) to offset the adverse environmental consequences of local building development. The land can still produce traditional crops but must be kept in whatever state is required for it to ‘soak up’ carbon.

It all sounds extremely scientific to me, but maybe it is a possible to offset at least some of the pollution in the world as well as offering farmers a source of additional income from their land, which works to enhance as well as protect their future viability.

There is a great deal of new terminology and focus on the environment which is concentrating the minds and no doubt the actions of a wide range of interested parties. In fact, nearly all of us associated with land and farming are likely to be involved, whether in the domestic setting or in the commercial/business world – and alongside everyone will be the conservation groups and the government agencies. I do hope all can work together and produce a dynamic and sustainable future for the farming industry and the countryside.

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