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  • by Karma Loveday

Government backs recommendations on peat rewetting

The government has pledged £12m of funding and said it will take forward all 14 recommendations of the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force as the group’s report was published last week.

Among the recommendations were:

• new investment in water storage, management and control;

• public money for wetter modes of farming on peat soils;

• technical advice on keeping peat soils wetter;

• creating viable opportunities in private finance;

• raising the profile of lowland agricultural peat soils; and

• adopting the task force’s roadmap to commercially viable paludiculture (farming on rewetted peat).

In terms of funding, £7.5m will kickstart improvements in how to manage water resources to rewet and preserve peat soils. This is distributed across two pilots:

• the Lowland Agricultural Peat Small Infrastructure Pilot (£5.45m) will support the installation of infrastructure and monitoring technology to enable more control of water levels for the preservation and rewetting of lowland peat – delivery of this project is being supported by the Association of Drainage Authorities; and

• the Lowland Agricultural Peat Water Discovery Pilot (£2.2m), to be delivered by the Environment Agency, will allow local and water peatland partnerships to collaborate to develop costed water level management plans for lowland peat areas in England.

A further £5m will go to 12 projects under the Paludiculture Exploration Fund grant scheme – administered by Natural England – to help understand and overcome barriers to developing paludiculture as a commercially viable farming practice on lowland peat soils.

Peat soils contain over half the country’s terrestrial carbon stores and serve as a potent nature-based solution against climate change. However, as a result of centuries of drainage to create land suitable for agriculture, our peat soils are drying out, causing the organic matter they contain to decompose and release carbon into the atmosphere. Today, just 1% of England’s lowland peatlands remain in a near-natural state.

Defra said that by rewetting lowland peat soils, we can deliver carbon emission reductions, improve food security, boost wetland biodiversity, and better protect communities from flooding.

Anglian Water was among the stakeholders on the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force.


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