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Maize crops contribute to flooding in Somerset

Flooded maize field  


Three quarters of the maize crops in the South West of England are contributing towards flooding according to a report in the Journal of Soil Use and Management.

The area around the River Parrett in Somerset is particularly vulnerable. Professor Bob Evans from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge said: "The National Soil Map makes it clear that some soils on the Parrett catchment are vulnerable to run-off.”

The height of the maize crop and spraying early in its life produce bare rows of earth. The ground is then compacted by very heavy cropping machinery which increases the run off in winter rains. Because the ground has been cultivated but left bare there is a significant and unnecessary increase in the silt load of run-off water.

"Erosion probably increased in the 1970s-80s because of the change in cropping to winter cereals around that time," said Prof. Evans. "The possibility of erosion occurring in winter cereals is one field in 42, in maize it's one field in seven."

The government have indicated that they are considering new legislation for maize cultivation which is currently outside soil management rules. The siting of field entrances on higher ground and cover crops are obvious improvements to affected fields.

There are government rules on soil management of other crops but environmentalist say that they are often ignored because farmers only face a 1% chance of an inspection.


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