We Hiring

March 11, 2016

Farm Services Limited is seeking the right candidates to join the company. Founded in 1942 the company has a number of vacancies in its drainage teams. You will be part of a drainage team installing pipe work in the agricultural, construction and sportfield sectors.

Ideally the candidates will have experience operating plant such as tractors, wheeled excavators and 360 degree excavators (CPCS cards a plus) However the most important attribute is the right attitude, we’re looking for people willing to get stuck in and work hard. In return you will receive onsite training and the possibility of rapid promotion.

All positions are subject to a trail period and from time to time, overnight stays will be necessary. Pay will be dependent upon experience and skillset.

The busy time of year

October 29, 2015

After harvest (August to October) we are at our busiest. The ground conditions tend to be excellent for working on the land and fields are clear of crops. This is also a good time to drain sportsfields especially those were use is mainly in the summer months like cricket pitches or golf courses. It really is a case of making hay when the sun shines.

At this time of year we need double the number of staff and triple the amount of kit! Long hours and trying to be as organised as possible are the only answers to this gut of work. Each year seems this pattern seems to be getting more pronounced, and the window gets tighter. This year we have been flat since the combines started to leave the fields and this is set to continue in November ss long as the weather remains reasonably benign. Now the clocks have gone back and we have lost an hour of daylight, production will go down, but we are still hard at it and hopefully this will continue for as long as possible.

The power of roots

July 02, 2015

A couple of weeks ago Hutchinsons Ag asked me to talk at their black grass open day, many will be aware black grass is more tolerant of wet, anaerobic conditions than any of the crops we try to grow in the this country and whilst Hutchinson have been able to control the black grass in most fields, one particularly wet field has been a problem. Such is the problem Hutchinsons now openly declare that without good drainage black grass control is very difficult indeed. My brief was to explain to growers how to spot a drainage issue and what to do about - nice and easy. What I thought I would write about here was the infiltration test which formed part of my talk.

Hutchinsons set up two infiltration tests one in the crop (which was stunted and thin due to excess water) and one where the crop establishment had failed. This was done to demonstrate the power of roots not just to use water, but to help with infiltration and soil structure, all really important to good drainage. This test also showed that heavy clay soils naturally hold water and rate of infiltration decrease at depth.

20 litres of dyed water took 24 mins to disappear in the bear earth and only penetrated to about 150mm before moving sideways. 20 litres took 4mins to disappear where a crop was standing and moved directly downward to more than a metre. Despite the crop looking in poor condition. The photos really show the results. It’s the same test, at the same time, the same cultivations, the same soil type, the only difference is the presence of roots. I can’t think of a test which better shows the power of roots.

The first thought of most when there was the results was that the area without roots was compacted, but the field had no compaction and had been probed to prove it - also the soil pit showed no signs of compactions. There was nothing ‘wrong’ with the soil it is simply a heavy clay which needs a little assistance when it comes to accepting and releasing water.

The point I wish make is twofold, firstly it is clear that plants greatly aid infiltration and drainage. Plants not only use up water and allow water to move into the air via transpiration from the leaves but the roots add structure and pathways which allow water to enter the soil. This is why drainage problems often become worst over the years, as the crops struggle, they ability to do this is reduced each year.

Secondly although the roots helped infiltration greatly the crop was still stunted, thin and poor. The soil type grew wonderful plants when dry but it needed to be helped to get to that condition. The answer is drainage with a permeable backfill. Without a gravel or stone backfill the photos show that the water is not going to reach the pipe.


June 16, 2015

Last week was an exciting one for us.

We’re are land drainage contractors and 95% of our work is the same, excavating trenches - now I’m not complaining about but doing something different is always exciting especially when it new to the UK.

Together with the Severn Rivers Trust and Leam CSF we are installed a De-nitrifying Bioreactor. I have used this blog in the past to argue that on the whole drainage is a positive in terms of its environmental impact, however this does not mean that they are not issues to solve and things to improve. Water quality is one of these issues. Runoff is the major cause of water quality issues in the UK, but in the winter in particular January and February, running drainage outlets provide a conduit for nitrates to leave the field. Bioreactors can hopefully provide a solution to these issues.

All of which leads to the obvious question, what is a bioreactor?

Bioreactors are subsurface excavations filled with a carbon source, in this and most cases wood chips. Water is allowed to flow the wood chip before leaving the drain to enter a surface water body. The carbon source in the trench serves as a substrate for bacteria that break down the nitrate through denitrification or other biochemical processes. The end result is that the water leaving the drainage scheme has greatly reduced levels of nitrates, very useful in catchment sensitive areas.

Bioreactors use proven technology and a number have been installed in North America with good results. They require no modification of current practices. As they are buried, no land needs to be taken out of production unlike other edge-of-field practices such as wetlands or buffer strips. There is no decrease in drainage effectiveness and they require little or no maintenance. It is thought that they will last for up to 20 years. However to be fair and honest I should mention that there are no financial incentives for a producer to install one of these systems, they will not harm or benefit production their value is in environment impact.

I should emphases that this is a trial and I have no idea how the reactor will perform. I see no reason why this bioreactor should not work as well as those in America, but we will see. Frustratingly I suspect that we will have to wait a while for some results, when I examined the drains in the winter they were running well but they are now (understandably) dry. I fear it maybe some months before water starts to flow into the chamber.

I will update once we start collecting data….. below are some pictures of construction

The Mudhound has moved

June 13, 2015

For the last couple of years the Farmers Weekly has hosted the Mudhound blog, but I guess nothing lasts forever. The magazine has decided to cut back on its forums page (I think everyone has moved over to twitter) and is no longer offering blogs, therefore this humble blog about the goes on at Farm Services has moved back to the Farm Services Web page.

Expect the same rambling comments about the weather, mud and putting pipe in the ground, up dated every month or so. If your keen to hear even more about the life of a drainage contractor (who would not) then you can also follow us on twitter @FarmservicesLtd

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Chesterton Estate Yard, Banbury Road, Lighthorne, Warwick, CV35 OAF