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Watercress & Chalk Stream Headwaters. Charles Barter Chairman, NFU Watercress Association 13 June 2007. NFU Watercress Association. Formed in 1936 under the Hertfordshire branch of the NFU Objective is to regulate, protect and promote the watercress industry Watercress Festival. History.

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Watercress chalk stream headwaters
Watercress & Chalk Stream Headwaters

Charles Barter

Chairman, NFU Watercress Association

13 June 2007


Nfu watercress association
NFU Watercress Association

  • Formed in 1936 under the Hertfordshire branch of the NFU

  • Objective is to regulate, protect and promote the watercress industry

  • Watercress Festival


History
History

  • Watercress has been farmed commercially in England for almost 200 years

  • 2008 is the bi-centenary of the first commercial watercress farm

  • Watercress has been farmed from the Test & Itchen for over 150 years


Abstraction or augmentation
Abstraction or Augmentation?

  • All sites originally fed by natural springs or artesian boreholes

  • Lowering of groundwater by consumptive abstractions has led to a number of farms now incurring pumping costs

  • Outflows from watercress farms augment receiving waters


The rural economy
The Rural Economy

  • Over 50% of UK watercress is grown in Hampshire on the headwaters of the Test & Itchen

  • The watercress industry is worth over £50m at retail

  • Over 500 rural jobs dependent on the industry


Nature s superfood
Nature’s Superfood

  • More vitamin C than oranges; calcium than whole milk; iron than spinach etc

  • PEITC – confers unique and powerful anti-cancer properties to watercress

  • A real and significant impact upon the health of the nation


Impact on receiving waters
Impact on Receiving Waters

  • Positive in terms of augmenting flow and decreasing nitrate load

  • Past concern re the industry’s use of pesticides, zinc and release of silt

  • Concern now focuses on phosphates


Watercress and phosphates
Watercress and Phosphates

  • Groundwater contains insufficient P to grow watercress

  • Traditionally supplied by basic slag

  • Since mid 1980s supplied by slow release fertilisers such as Fibrophos



Watercress and invertebrates
Watercress and Invertebrates by ADAS to identify and refine best practice use of phosphate fertilisers

  • Caddis and Gammarus thrive in undisturbed watercress beds

  • Repeat cropping / bed cleaning significantly reduces populations on and below farms

  • Work sponsored by Vitacress has clearly demonstrated the causal factor is the mustard oil, PEITC


PEITC breaks down quickly. Most farms have settlement lagoons

Farms without lagoons may need to consider reed beds / wetlands – await outcome of Pete Shaw’s work with interest


Other issues
Other Issues lagoons

  • Diverse Pollution

  • Effects caused by increasing number of swans

  • Overseas Watercress Production


In summary
In Summary lagoons

  • Watercress farming is an historic and key element of the Test & Itchen’s upper headwaters

  • Watercress is important to the rural economy and to the health of the nation

  • Farmed responsibly watercress is an asset to the river system


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