Vanishing peat

At this time of year arable farmers in the Vale of Pickering can be found cultivating for spring crops. This is often on the land that sits too wet to plough it in autumn when modern cereal and oilseed crops are planted. After an exceptionally wet year many areas remain too soggy to drive machinery over without damaging the soil or getting bogged.

Let us not forget however that at critical growth stages a shortage of water can be equally damaging to crop yields. We had official drought orders in place in Yorkshire only a year ago. Lighter soils, such as sands and peats, both found in quantity in the Vale of Pickering are very prone to blowing away when dry. If strong winds coincide with dry conditions just after cultivation this can cause mass wasting of soils by wind erosion. It is not uncommon for farmers to have to re-drill crops on blow-away soils if rain fails at the critical time. Scenes like the one here near Killerby Carr, emphasise the vulnerability of peat soils not only to land drainage and subsequent shrinkage but also to wind erosion.

Soil is  a precious and limited commodity. Peat soils on The Carrs are especially precious, due to the carbon they hold, the heritage record within and their biodiversity potential. Yet how many of us give soils a second thought? Are they another aspect of our overlooked heritage in Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale?

A dust cloud of peat  tells a dramatic story of peatland erosion during a dry spring on The Carrs

A dust cloud of peat tells a dramatic story of peatland erosion during a dry spring on The Carrs

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