The effect of cover crops on water quality

Within the framework of the CPES - Interreg project proposed by the European Union, whose objective is the implementation of Payments for Environmental Services (PES) to improve water quality in sites in England and France, the English partner of the South Down Pilot Site (Porthmouth Water) focused on the effect of cover crops on water quality. 

During the 3 years of studies, several elements were retained: 

  • Cover crops limit and control erosion, improve soil health and increase and preserve biodiversity, but they also have a real effect on improving water quality by limiting nitrogen leaching.
    Beware, leaching losses vary according to the amount of mineral nitrogen already present in the soil and other factors related to the soil (texture, depth, time of year, rainfall, etc.)

  • However, cover crops are not advantageous compared to conventional crops when the notion of cost/benefit is considered. 

What solutions can be proposed to remedy the financial loss?

As the cost/benefit ratio is reduced, financial incentives (via PES) need to be strengthened by the public and private sectors. The big problem at the moment is the cost of seeds and fertilizers, which has doubled or even tripled in the last year. It remains to be seen how this will evolve over the next few years. 

For more information, click here, to see the reports explaining the studies that have been conducted.