The proposal for a local code of practice on the use of polytunnels seems sensible and could, potentially, be a helpful initiative.
We as consumers can have better British soft fruit for longer than ever before. We now can enjoy the pleasure of eating British berries for approx 26 weeks, as opposed to only 5-6 weeks of season, which was the conventional period of cropping 20 years ago.
Herewith a list of TOP TIPS
- Use trees to create a natural screen and to also provide a natural windbreak to protect the crops and tunnels. A significant tree planting initiative will create goodwill in terms of the impact on the landscape and sensitivity with neighbours
- Keep the farm clean and tidy. This is perhaps the most important issue of all. Neighbours who contend with polythene flapping and hanging in trees and hedges will never be sympathetic to the need of tunnelled production
- Recycle everything. The days of burning and burying waste are simply not acceptable. British Polythene (BPI) and Haygrove operate a national polythene recycling scheme. The recycling is provided free to growers and only requires that the grower pay the cost of transport to the recycling plant. Also recycle wire, steel and rope. If tunnels are to be sustainable we must recycle materials.
- Use polythene that reduces glare. Reading University and British Polythene have done an enormous amount at developing highly diffusing polythenes that not only reduce temperatures, but also massively reduce the reflective glare. The leading UK product is Luminance THB that reduces glare versus normal polythene by 30% and only costs 10% more. The reduced glare of Luminance is very noticeable from afar.
- Strengthen structures for wind. The risk of wind damage must be considered – not only is it a potential huge cost for the grower, but it is also very disturbing for immediate neighbours. Specific ideas include:
- Perimeter leg anchors using T anchors and high tensile steel wire
- Star and v wire systems
- Steel top gantry rail on perimeter tunnel bays
- Double rope the outside two tunnels most vulnerable to wind
- Use of extra strong steel or thicker wall thickness steel for perimeter bays
Contact Haygrove Tunnels for more advice 01531635041
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Manage water run off. This varies enormously depending on soil type, field slope and land drainage. However, ensure it is managed and the tunnels do not become a source of problem with overflowing watercourses or water moving onto public highways
- At all times communicate! So often growers can get so engrossed in their daily workload that we do not take the time to communicate with others. Keep your local Parish Council and neighbours informed of what you are up to. If your council requires a Polytunnel Checklist (see section on Voluntary Code) fill it in and keep the council in touch. Additionally invite neighbours to come and see the operation – you’ll be surprised at how many are very positive. Join your local Parish Council – most farmers are very active in their local communities.