Why farms need to mitigate the rising risk of flooding

How prepared is your farming business for flooding? With climate projections showing an increase in extreme weather events, mitigation strategies are imperative.

A new report from the National Audit Office has raised concerns about the Government’s flood resilience plans that look set to protect far fewer properties by 2027 than it originally promised.

The Environment Agency estimates that in 2022-23, approximately 5.7 million properties in England were at risk from flooding.

After another wet autumn, with storms Babet and Ciaran causing disruption across the country, what can farmers do to protect themselves as flooding incidents continue to rise?

The risks from drought or flood to all types of agricultural production are well known, but the risk from the impact is increasing. Many parts of the UK are already under high water stress, which is an indicator of lower resiliency and therefore a higher risk for lending.

The excess water issue

  • Too much water impacts both the green and grey infrastructure of any farm – the risk of field or farmyard flooding, lodging, soil erosion, nutrient run-off and stress on both livestock and deadstock.
  • Chronically poorly managed soils will over the long term lead to a loss in the land asset value as the productive topsoil will simply wash away.
  • Water stress also leads to off-farm supply chain disruptions, which can cause both local and indeed global issues – food price volatility is frequently driven by water issues around the world.

All businesses should be assessing water data, water dependencies, water risks and impacts, and opportunities to mitigate these risks in a location-specific way.

Oxbury is working with its customers to identify mitigation strategies and suitable investments in either grey or green infrastructure to ensure more resilient farm businesses.

Examples of grey infrastructure improvements in the farmyard:

  • Appropriate and compliant drainage.
  • Rainwater harvesting.

Green infrastructure improvements:

  • Nature based solutions to capture and hold water, such as key-line agroforestry or hedge planting, hydrological restoration or wetland creation.
  • Increasing soil organic matter to ensure total water holding capacity per hectare improves. Every 1% increase in soil organic matter could store an additional 185,000 litres per hectare.

Using green infrastructure opens up numerous opportunities for farmers to capitalise on a role as water managers, both with respect to quality by entering nutrient neutrality markets and quantity by entering natural flood management markets as well as the likely carbon and biodiversity uplifts that would result from nature based solutions.