Cash available for companion cropping trial volunteers

Growers who volunteer to take part in a companion cropping trial this season could earn more than £800 just for reporting the crop performance compared with a nearby monocropped field.

Independent charity the Organic Research Centre, along with the James Hutton Institute, is on the hunt for British growers to take part in the EU-wide project, called DIVERSify, to investigate how much the practice can improve crop yields.

Growers taking part in the scheme would have to plant a strip of companion cropping alongside a normal field planted with a single comparable cash crop.

See also: Why spring crops are a better bet than autumn-drilled ones

Bruce Pearce from the Organic Research Centre said: “Cereal and legume plant teams have the potential to produce 30% higher yields on average, compared with monocultures. 

“Combined with reduced off-farm inputs and higher yield stability, this can result in higher incomes and lower risks for farmers.”

Common crop mixtures

Three of the more common types of companion cropping are planting barley with a pea mixture, winter beans with wheat and undersowing a combinable crop with clover mixtures.

However, growers are free to trial their own mixtures to suit their own farming system, with the scheme criteria suggesting a minimum trial plot area of 2,000sq m.

This could be a standalone plot, or a strip within an existing crop.

Providing there is a comparable monocropped field nearby and growers submit basic crop performance data, they will qualify for the funding.

There may also be more cash on offer, if they are also willing to host demonstration days of their trial areas.

“Our key aim with DIVERSify is to identify the challenges and barriers that farmers might face when incorporating this system,” explained Dr Pearce.

“We need to establish which plant teams work well and show how they can contribute to yield stability, reduce losses and increase resilience to environmental stresses.”

Time left for 2018 funding

There is still time to qualify for funding for trial plots within spring cropping in 2018, with a mid-February deadline.

Growers interested in more information should contact the Organic Research Centre by email at: diversify@organicresearchcentre.com.