Sunflowers© Tim Scrivener

Early establishment is the most important factor in growing a successful cover crop, and sowing as early as possible is best – ideally by late summer.

This is one of a number of recommendations from a report to help growers deal with the complex decisions surrounding selecting, managing and benefiting from the range of crops on offer.

Having a clear sense of what is required from the crop should be the starting point for selection, with four main types of use identified:

  • Improving soil fertility
  • Improving soil structure
  • Managing weeds and pests
  • Environmental management

The report, funded by the AHDB, sets out in detail the positive and negative impacts of cover crops, including the maximum beneficial effects growers can expect to find from growing them.

See also: Soil health survey kick-starts cover crop trials

“Test a couple of cover crop options and compare them against your standard cropping practice to find out which option meets your objective best,” says Charlotte White, lead report author.

Dr White said growers should conduct a long-term cost-benefit analysis of the cover crop beyond its impact on the next cash crop to gain an understanding of its value and decide which will best fit their system.

The full report can be found on the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds website.