ADOPTING GOOD soil management practices can have wider benefits beyond meeting statutory cross compliance regulations, according to one farmer.

More work is needed to assess the full physical and financial benefits from different soil practices, said ex-FARMERS WEEKLY Farmer Focus writer, Jim Bullock at the Smithfield Show (Dec 2).

Cover crops such as mustard and red clover can fix nitrogen, improve soil structure and organic matter, he noted.

But, there is also work being done by The Arable Group, looking at the effects of growing mustard in between first and second wheats to help against take-all, he said.

When mustard decays, it gives off mustard gas, which could help control the disease, he said.

Other studies are also looking at growing white clover in a wheat crop, which can benefit soil structure and may also have yield benefits for second wheats, he said.

Promoting good soil management for whatever works on individual farms is central to the Soil Management Initiative, which Mr Bullock is keen to promote.

“Farmers will need a helping hand along the way to get where they need to be by 2006/07,” he said.

The SMI is not just about encouraging minimum tillage – for some soil types ploughing is the only answer, but for others minimum tillage has great advantages, he said.