Phosphate and invertebrate sampling commissioned by S&TC on the River Itchen, a Special Area of Conservation, has indicated the river is suffering from excess phosphates and fine sediment from a variety of sources.
With Vitacress planning to bring its Pinglestone Farm on the river back to full commercial production in 2018, S&TC, together with Portsmouth University, will continuously monitor phosphate output at the site. It will work with Vitacress to develop effective farming and water management methods to resolve any issues that the monitoring uncovers.
S&TC chief executive Paul Knight said: "We believe continuous monitoring of phosphate levels in industry discharges is the only way to fully capture seasonal peaks and better understand the impacts these discharges are having on the river.
"We applaud Vitacress for working with us to go beyond the EA’s current monthly spot checks to properly monitor the impact of the watercress industry on the river environment. We will work together to ensure this data drives improvements in the river's ecology, while ensuring watercress is a truly environmentally sustainable product."
Vitacress Salads managing director Chris Hall said: "The learnings from Pinglestone will be applied across all Vitacress’ watercress farms, and shared with the industry to develop best practice in watercress farming.
"This fits with Vitacress’ values and our commitment to deliver fresh, tasty, healthy and nutritious watercress whilst protecting the environments in which we farm."
The Environment Agency set limits on phosphate discharges to the River Itchen system from the start of 2016. S&TC will install an autosampler at the Environment Agency discharge sampling point on Pinglestone farm.