11 December 1998

Cover crops best for soil structure

REPAIRING damaged soils after root crops is best done with a cover crop, even if the land is to be set-aside, says the Scottish Agricultural College.

"Only a crops roots are going to dry the ground out at depth," says Lothian advisor George Barton. He advises ploughing poached and rutted land as soon as possible to get the maximum frost action before planting next spring.

"If the land is to be set-aside this should be left to last for spring drilling, but it would have to be sown before the May 15 deadline," he notes.

Grass is probably the best option for restoring soil structure, or a mixture such as kale and wheat can provide useful wild-bird cover, he suggests. Legumes must be mixed with another seed, and kept within MAFF inclusion limits. For clover in grass that is 5% maximum.