Page last updated at 09:34 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 10:34 UK

Soil test offer on river quality

River at Betws y Coed
The project aims to keep river water clean

Farmers are being sought to take part in trials as part of a campaign to safeguard river water quality.

If successful the CEFN Conwy Project could also help them save money by cutting down on fertiliser bills.

The Bangor University and Conwy Rural Partnership scheme aims to protect "downstream" economies such as mussel fisheries and Blue Flag beaches.

Beaches can be affected by over-fertilising of land, and faecal coliforms, bacteria in animal faeces.

"Some agricultural soils are receiving too many nutrients and this could be because slurry and manure nutrients are not being taken into account," said project officer Jo Hughes.

Animal waste

"This can lead to problems downstream especially if these materials are spread during a wet spell or if too much is applied," she said.

Soil acidification is also a common problem, and if acute it can mean plants not taking up the fertilisers resulting in poor crop yields, she added.

Animal waste can pose problems for mussel fishermen, according to Professor Davey Jones of Bangor University's School of the Environment and Natural Resources.

"High levels of faecal coliforms, a group of bacteria present in animal faeces, can led to the closure of the mussel beds," he said.

Workshops

"All the evidence points to this originating from agricultural run-off of waste into the River Conwy that then discharges onto the shellfish beds.

"If this happens, for several seasons the industry could go under," he added.

If levels can be brought down the mussel beds will be safer and the beaches who have Blue Flag status withdrawn will see their water quality improve, he said.

"That will benefit everybody who uses the beaches in these areas," he added.

The project will also help farmers comply with the requirements of the new Glastir scheme and emerging Water Framework Directive (WFD).

"The WFD has many conditions that framers will be expected to comply with through cross compliance such as fencing off strips of land that are hot sports for soil and nutrient run-off," said project officer Julie Williamson.

Workshops for farmers will be held at the Royal Oak Hotel, Betws-y-Coed (Tuesday, 1 September), The Black Lion Inn, Llanfair Talhaiarn (7 September) and The Red Lion, Tyn y Groes, (14 September).



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