Whartons taps into eco-irrigation

A system of pipes and reservoirs are ensuring that garden roses survive this year's dry weather.

An ecological watering system that relies on boreholes and run-off reservoirs is insuring against losses that could run to millions, a leading grower has claimed.

Robert Wharton, who grows over 26ha of garden roses in East Anglia, said 3km of pipes linked to bores, reservoirs and an eco-pond were crucial in hot spells.

"We can irrigate all our root-stock fields. We grow 26ha a year and it's a two-year crop, which is quite a big area with high demands in dry weather."

Roses at Whartons Nurseries in Diss, Norfolk, are watered from boreholes, a central reservoir fed by roof water and field-irrigation drainage and an eco-pond. The system collects, cleans and pumps water back into the largereservoir ready for use in dry times for 1.45m plants a year.

"It's really come into its own this year because it's been so dry. Water is a big issue so if you can grab what falls and store it it's a big help," Wharton said.

"Unlike food crops, you don't need to water garden roses every year provided you have rainfall. Irrigation is insurance. You may not need to use it for four years but losing the crop would cost £200,000," he said.

"And that's not all because you've got dead root stock in the ground so losses could run into millions of pounds," he added.

Wharton said he planned to invest in a new cold store to schedule lifted rose bushes and ensure a steady flow of succession plants."

EXPERT VIEW

John Adlam, consultant, Dove Associates

"In these areas of East Anglia few additional licences for groundwater are granted so you have to be innovative in establishing where else you can get water - in Wharton's case recycling as well as harvesting water to supplement groundwater. There's been very little rain for eight weeks in the East and South and that's difficult for field growers of trees and roses, who don't have any field irrigation. Production is suffering a bit where there is no field irrigation. Most container growers have a water supply already laid on. There are problems."


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