Farmer Focus Arable: Andrew Charlton welcomes Legum Link project

I’ve written before about the importance of fertility-building legumes in stockless organic systems. The big concern for me is that the legume that does the best job – red clover – is subject to a range of pests and diseases, principally sclerotinia and eelworm.

If these build up through over-cropping they can render it unusable.

The alternatives I’ve tried – white and yellow clover and trefoil – appear less effective at doing what a legume should, principally growing competitively and shading out all weeds while fixing lots of nitrogen.

So I was delighted to hear about a new DEFRA-funded project called Legume Link. It is a national series of trials on 35 sites, of which Poplar Farm is one, set up to monitor the effectiveness of a blend of 10 legumes combined with four grasses with appropriate inoculants added at drilling.

The experiments are being monitored to measure how the various species complement each other and hopefully develop an improved mixture for organic systems.

There is nothing revolutionary about this and I dare say this kind of work was well-developed in the first half of the last century; but the know-how was largely lost in developing modern conventional agriculture.

However, the trial site, along with the rest of the newly-sown clovers and potatoes, looks dust-dry at the moment. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean a re-run of 2007’s weather.

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