Visit of Indian delegation to study UK irrigated agriculture

This 3-day study tour to the UK will offer first-hand experience of how agricultural irrigation is planned, practised, and managed in the UK and particularly its importance in delivering high yields and quality produce into the UK and European food supply chain.

Although there are many obvious differences in irrigated farming between India and the UK, there are also many similarities – supplementary irrigation, groundwater abstraction, on-farm reservoir storage, irrigation scheduling practices, water shortages, droughts, environmental considerations,  the need to improve irrigation efficiency – from which a delegation from India could significanlty benefit.

Irrigation is widely practised for the production of high value crops in eastern and southern England, indeed for most high value fruit and vegetable crops it is now an essentail component of the production process.  But, like many other countries, including India, water resources are under intense pressure due to rising competition, demands for greater environmental protection, and the longer-term threats from a changing climate.  Eastern England is one of the driest and most water-stressed regions of the UK.  Climate change threatens to exacerbate the problems that farmers face.  But in addition to ‘climate’ risks, growers face a raft of ‘non- climate’ risks including European agro-economic policy interventions, the increasing burden of environmental regulations, and the relative power of supermarkets as these affect the operation of markets, including requirements for auditing and traceability.  For these reasons the UK is arguably one of the most sophisticated food markets in the world.  Rising production costs for water, energy, labour, and fertiliser, coupled with increasing risks associated with infrastructure damage due to flooding are other sources of economic risk.

The 3-day programme (see below) is designed to improve participants’ knowledge of UK irrigation farm production systems, how irrigation water is regulated, how water resources and drainage are regulated, how produce is marketed from field to fork, and how innovations in irrigation technology are improving food production and food quality.

The programme focuses on East Anglia, which is one of the driest and yet most agriculturally productive regions in the UK producing irrigated fruit and vegetables for the UK market.  Drainage too plays a key part in the life of the region as much of the most productive farm land is below sea level.

This research-based workshop will enable participants to meet and discuss how water resources are planned and managed for agriculture and horticulture, the equipment used, and how water resources are managed both on a catchment basis and on-farm.


Time Activity
Sunday 23rd June Arrive at Orton Hall Hotel
Monday 24th June 08.30- 08.45 Welcome to visitors from India and introductions
08.45-09.45 Introduction to irrigated farming in the UK – from ‘field to fork’

Melvyn Kay Exec Secretary UK Irrigation Association

9.45-10.30 Water resources in UK and the role of the Environment Agency

Andrew Chapman Environment Planning Specialist, Environment Agency

10.30-10.45 Coffee
10.45 Travel to Baston, Lincolnshire (approx 30 minutes)
11.15-12.45 Visit to G&D Matthews Ltd farm to see and discuss advances in trickle and overhead irrigation management
12.45-14.00 Lunch
14.00-14.30 Travel to West Pinchbeck (approx 30 minutes)
14.30- 15.30 West Pinchbeck to see trickle irrigation installation on salad potatoes
15.30-16.15 Travel to Sutton Bridge (approx 30 minutes)
16.15-17.30 Visit to factory and vegetable packing station at Sutton Bridge
17.30 Return to hotel in Peterborough (approx 50 minutes)
Tuesday 25th June All-day visit – farming and land drainage in East Anglia fens
08.00 Travel to Holme fen (approx 20 minutes)
08.20-09.00 Holme Fen
09.00 Travel to St Germans (approx 1 hr)
10.00-11.30 Land drainage and St Germans drainage pumping station
11.30-12.15 Travel to Denver (approx 45 minutes)
12.15-13.00 Lunch at Jenyns Arms, Denver
13.00-14.15 Visit to Denver sluice gravity drainage facilities
14.15 Travel to Swaffham (approx 45 minutes)
15.00-16.00 Visit Swaffham wind turbine and eco-technology centre
16.00 Travel to Cranfield Unversity and over night stay in Cranfield (approx 1.5hr)
Wed 26th June Irrigation research workshop at Cranfield
09.00-09.15 Introduction to workshop – Melvyn Kay, UK Irrigation Association
09.15-10.00 Assessing and managing irrigators’ drought risk– Professor Ian Holman, Cranfield University
10.00-10.45 Impacts of drought on UK agriculture Papadimitriou, Lamprini, Cranfield University
10.45 – 11.00 Coffee
11.00-11.45 Climate change impacts on UK agriculture – Professor Jerry Knox, Cranfield University
11.45 – 12.30 Resilience of fruit and vegetable supplies in UK – Professor Tim Hess, Cranfield University
12.30 –13.00 Panel discussion and round-up on the visit
13.00 Buffet lunch
14.00 – 17.00 Project meeting of SusHi-Wat investigators