There is no doubt that there have been recent algal blooms in the River Wye. A much more difficult question to address is their cause, with some saying that they result from phosphate leaching from agriculture. The issue has gained national attention recently through reports on Radio 4’s Today programme and the BBC lunchtime news.
Images of the “nation’s favourite river”, whose waters are usually cool and clear, turning a sludge-green, capture attention. However, the pro-active and forward-thinking response of a group of local Herefordshire farmers working together with the Wye & Usk Foundation and other stakeholders (including national chicken & egg producers, Tesco and Sainsbury’s) have been trying to combat the issue, and this highlights a new style of working of which we are likely to see more.
This collaborative approach may provide be a useful model for farmers and land managers in England entering the government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs). Due to be trialled in 2023, the Local Nature Recovery scheme is one which will focus on supporting farmers and local facilitators to work together to determine local priorities and how these can be achieved through land management planning.
The details of the scheme are still to be decided and the results of the government’s recent consultation have not yet been published. However, it is clear that the future of farming will see an increased need for coordination and cooperation between farms; between farmers and trusted advisors; and between farmers and other stakeholders, such as investors in the emerging Natural Capital Market, and the benefits of these relationships could be considerable.