The Environment Agency has launched a campaign to highlight the risks of growing high-risk crops in the south west of England.

The agency said the high-risk crops, which include maize, fodder beet and potatoes, can lead to pollution and flooding.

Parts of Cornwall and north and east Devon are considered at risk due to underlying soil types, slope and proximity to sensitive watercourses, roads and properties.

Inadequate management of high-risk crops on these soil types can cause serious flooding and pollution, affecting nearby properties and wildlife, the Environment Agency said.

The high-risk crops are classified by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Farmers who grow maize and other high-risk crops in Devon and Cornwall should take reasonable measures to prevent soil-erosion and muddy run-off, the Environment Agency said.

Enforcement action could be considered if it is found such measures have not been taken.

‘Extreme weather’

Land management project manager for the Environment Agency in Devin and Cornwall, James Wimpress, said: “The farming industry has made good progress in dealing with problems associated with run-off, but more frequent extreme weather means that further action must be taken to prevent flooding and pollution in the future.

“We want to raise awareness of how devastating flooding is when exacerbated by the production of high-risk crops in unsuitable locations, so farmers can make more sustainable decisions in line with our changing climate.”

If farmers continue to grow high-risk crops in certain locations, they will need to develop site specific measures to prevent soil-erosion and run-off.

The measures must be resilient to heavy rainfall and periods of prolonged wet weather, the Environment Agency said.

A spokesperson for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said: “Investing in and protecting soil health is crucial to the nation’s farming systems and is essential to British food production.

“Healthy soil delivers in reducing flood risk, supporting wildlife habitats and biodiversity, and the sequestration and storage of carbon.

“Any proactive advice that can support farmers and land managers in delivering these objectives is welcomed, while also enabling farmers to produce the crops the market requires.

“This should be about an enabling, supportive approach recognising the challenges of producing food alongside farmers protecting their crucial asset, soil.”