Yesterday a group of farmers visited a system that is being trialled by the Water Innovation Network on a Dairy Farm in the Upper Ballinderry catchment.
It's a simple system of swales to deal with dirty water coming off the farmyard. The farmer had previously got a quote for installing an Integrated Constructed Wetland but the costs were high and it was going to use up productive land.
This swale system uses less land and is much cheaper to install. The results so far seem very promising.
Not only is it a cheaper way to prevent pollution, it can yield some useful crops - in this case willow and comfrey. The willow can be used for biomass, but on a recent tour of AFBI we also heard about research into the benefits of using willow in cattle feed and it's potential to reduce methane.
Comfrey is the secret weapon - it's essentially a NUTRIENT RECYCLER. It puts down a big root to draw up nitrogen, phosporous and potassium. It can be cut and ensiled along with
grass or harvested and soaked to give the farm it's own source of free liquid fertiliser.
Since the system went in the river quality has returned to 10 out of 10 status (using biotic indicators). Mallard ducks, teal ducks and skylarks have arrived.
Clean water, feed, fertiliser, biodiversity - win, win, win, win for the Water Innovation Network!
More visits are planned on 10th and 18th October. There will be two visits each day - one to Curragh View dairy farm and in the afternoon to Cloughbane Farm to see a different version of the system. You can book for either or both here.