Field drainage can make the difference between having a crop and not having it, but drain maintenance has been ignored for too long.

That was the message of farmer Robert Cross, who hosts the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Warrington Monitor Farm.

Earlier this month, at a Monitor Farm Group meeting, Cross said: “Drainage has often been neglected in recent times since grants have fallen.”

Also, soil health and conditions have become much bigger topical issues. So we wanted to analyse what’s cost-effective and what type of system might work best on my farm or on other people’s farms nearby.

His views were mirrored by the AHDB, whose knowledge exchange manager Judith Stafford highlighted the loss of labour and grants, which means maintenance has taken a back seat.

This, she added, results in problems for production and the environment.

The Monitor Farm meeting was addressed by Neville Pearson, an independent drainage consultant, who said that mole drainage is suitable in an emergency, but shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution.

“We learnt that the key component is making sure outfalls are working well and are well maintained. That enables you to keep low spots drier and free of water,” said Cross.

The next meeting of the Monitor Farm Group will be on December 13, which will focus on choosing a profitable rotation and making a profit from break crops.