Cereals 2015: Plan cover crops with care to avoid disease pressure

Growers are urged to plan the implementation of cover crops carefully to avoid disease and pest pressure building in cash crops elsewhere in the rotation.

Cover crops have created at buzz at Cereals this year and seed-mix merchants have been busy answering grower’s questions about how to fit them in their rotation.

They have clear benefits for soil condition, structure and nutrition, but Niab Tag head of crop research and communication Ron Stobart told Farmers Weekly that it’s ill-advised just drop them into the rotation without any thought.

See also: Video: Farmer demonstrates benefits of mixed cover crops

“You need to match the species and mix of cover crop to your objectives and how it fits in with other crops in the rotation.

“For example, you shouldn’t use brassica cover crop species in an oilseed rape rotation with a history of clubroot and Verticillium wilt,” said Mr Stobart.

Ron Stobart

Ron Stobart

Brassicas can host and exacerbate these soil-borne diseases and care should also be taken with legume cover crop mixes where peas and beans feature on-farm.

Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) principal technical officer Steve Belcher said that there is a potential for certain cover crops to harbour pea and bean weevil and some diseases, but more research is required to fill in knowledge gaps.

He explained that the quick uptake of cover crops means farm practice is a long way ahead of the research, so urges caution when using legume mixes in the same rotation as pulses.

“If you are growing pulse crops, you could argue there isn’t a need to include legumes in the rotation anyway.

“There are ongoing trials looking at how cover crops fit in with pulses, but at the moment we just don’t know what the implications are,” he added.

You can take a more in-depth look at cover crops with experts around Cereals 2015 in 17 June issue of Farmers Weekly

For more news, photos, video and information at the Cereals event see our Cereals 2015 page

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