DEFRA has announced an ‘action plan’ setting out a range of measures to restore the River Wye to health.

It will require large poultry farms to export manure away from areas where they would otherwise cause excess pollution and provide up to £35m in grant support for on-farm poultry manure combustors in the area.

See also: New govt grants to help fund poultry welfare equipment

Combusting poultry manure provides a source of renewable energy and converts manure to nutrient-rich ash, which is a valuable fertiliser that is easier to transport and use on farms – reducing risk to the environment.

Anthea McIntyre CBE, a former Member of the European Parliament, has also been appointed as the key figure, the ‘River Champion’, in the Wye catchment.

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “The River Wye is facing real challenges, which is why the government is taking action to restore this important landscape and ensure it is better protected for future generations.     

Sustainable practices

“Our plan will dramatically reduce the amount of nutrients entering the river, mostly by helping farmers transition to more sustainable practices.

“This will include providing up to £35m for on-farm poultry litter combustors and trialling the use of emerging technology to help farmers share organic nutrients with their neighbours.”

Further actions outlined in the plan include:    

· Creating a level playing field for the export of poultry manure from intensive poultry farms with over 40,000 birds by reforming Environmental Permitting Regulations.   

· Proving the concept of a circular economy in manure nutrients with the potential added benefit of boosting rural renewable energy, through a carefully supported Pilot Farm Trial of Micro Anaerobic Digesters (AD).    

· Promoting soil and nutrient retention in local fields with new actions in the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in Summer 2024, including No Till arable farming.   

· Providing £1.5 million of development funding to the local Wyescapes and Wye Valley – Ridge to River – Landscape Recovery Projects over the next two years (subject to the projects passing enrolment checks).   

· Providing funding for the Restoring our Rivers project and Arrow Valley Diversity Project, delivered with local partners in the next financial year.   

· Working with partners in academia, agriculture and the third sector (both in England and Wales) to produce new evidence on how farmers can mitigate pollution, including from legacy phosphate deeper in the soil structure.