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Farming Today

Podcast Farming Today
Podcast Farming Today

Farming Today


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  • 08/02/23 TB vaccine trials; Government reshuffle; Rewetting peatlands
    The DEFRA programme to pilot a vaccine for cattle against Bovine Tuberculosis is about the enter its second stage. This will involve five farms with 600 cattle. The trial combines the BCG vaccine and the DIVA test, which shows clearly which cattle have been vaccinated and which have been challenged by the disease, and it's hoped both together could work to identify where the disease is and also protect cattle at risk. There's been a re-organisation of government departments. Grant Shapps is the new Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary; Michelle Donelan becomes the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary. Both of those roles will have to liaise closely with DEFRA - on the future of land use for energy, and innovations including gene editing. All week we’re taking a look at the future of our peatlands. In many parts of the country lowland peat is drained and used to grow vegetables and other crops but this degrades the peat and emits carbon. Farmers in Germany are developing something called ‘paludiculture’, using re-wetted peat lands to grow water tolerant vegetation, which also has a market. A company called Wetland Products is growing bulrushes in water-covered peat and turning it into housing insulation, takeaway food packaging, and compost for commercial growers. Bulrushes and reeds also clean up the excess nutrients in the water where they grow. Also in the Fens, a group of farmers and scientists are working together to see if they can change the way farming food is done on peatlands. A collaboration called Fenland Soil has been set to try out new wetter farming techniques. Presenter = Anna Hill Producer = Rebecca Rooney
  • 07/02/2023 River pollution and poultry farming; Peat; Eco homes.
    A major chicken producer claims it will clean up its use of manure alongside the River Wye but its plan won't be fully implemented till 2025. Avara Foods has 120 farms producing 16 million chickens for it within the River Wye catchment. It's faced criticism for failing to ensure the farms do not contaminate the river by spreading chicken manure on their land. Now the company says it will bring in a new regime which will regulate the use of the farms' manure much better and will not "contribute to excess phosphate in the Wye" by 2025. Nicola Cutcher from the Guardian has had exclusive access to Avara - she told us what the new company plan is. All week we're talking about peat. Commercial growers are still allowed to use it for now, but from next year, domestic gardeners won't be able to buy it. Retail sales are being banned to help the government reach its net zero targets, as peatlands are the UK's largest carbon store. Organic growers would like to be ahead of any mandatory targets but for commercial nurseries that rely on machines to plant blocks of plants, it's going to be a challenge. A farmer from Nottinghamshire hopes he's found a solution to the lack of affordable housing in the rural area where he lives. He’s built one of the most energy efficient groups of dwellings in the country and they’re only available for local people to rent. Presenter = Anna Hill Producer = Rebecca Rooney
  • 06/02/23 - Restoring landscapes and growing food; wetlands; peat.
    Today we discuss restoring landscapes and how that fits in with growing food. Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee, says while the government has been 'excellent' at setting environmental targets it's been less good at delivering them. Volunteers are planting thousands of native plants at a Wiltshire wetland, aimed at reducing the flow of water and hence helping to reduce flooding. To start our week looking at peat, we hear from Professor Martin Evans from the University of Manchester on why our peatlands are so important to preserve. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Beatrice Fenton.
  • Farming Today This Week: Environmental Improvement Plan; Fruit growers; Potatoes; Rural Poverty.
    The Government published its new "Environmental Improvement Plan" this week, promising to halt decline in nature by 2030 - and outlining how it plans to deliver the Environment Act, with specific targets and deadlines. It includes: targets to tackle pollution from water companies and farmers and improve water quality; restoring a million acres of wildlife habitat; and a fund to protect species at risk. Defra wants the new Environmental Land Management Schemes or ELMS to be taken up by 60-80% of farmers. It's been a tough 12 months for potato farmers with huge hikes in fertilizer prices and a drought which forced them to irrigate much more than usual. Many are giving up on the crop altogether. We hear from two brothers who are drastically reducing their production and speak to the big potato processor McCain about what it's doing to persuade its farmers to keep planting spuds. Apple and pear producers have cancelled more than a third of orders for new trees this season, because they say the sums just don't add up. The figures, from the British Growers Association say costs for farmers have risen by nearly a quarter but the price they're paid for their fruit by supermarkets has risen by less than one per cent. They warn the industry's on a knife-edge. We speak to a farmer who's just cancelled an order for 72,000 new trees. All week we've been talking about an often hidden aspect of rural life - poverty. The Rural Services Network says : If England’s rural communities were treated as a distinct region, their need for levelling up would be greater than any other. We hear from people who've been homeless and those who are on the brink of losing everything. Presenter = Charlotte Smith Producer = Rebecca Rooney
  • 03/02/22 Dental deserts, forestry training, PCN resistant potatoes.
    The dental deserts in the UK's rural and coastal towns. Recent research showed that 90% of NHS dental practices in England were not accepting new adult patients. The All Party Parliamentary Health and Social Care committee is now investigating this struggle people are having finding a dentist. The Government is to spend £700,000 training people in forestry in England , so (ministers say) 'we have enough people with the right skills to plan, plant and manage new woodlands.' Scientists have discovered types of potato which can fight off an attack from worm-like pests called potato cyst nematodes. As PCNs can reduce yields or even destroy a whole crop, that's a big deal. Presented by Charlotte Smith and produced by Beatrice Fenton.

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