Farmer Focus: Planning cover crop destruction post-glyphosate

As most of our cover crops are either contributing towards Countryside Stewardship agreements or our EFA requirements, 15 January is the magic date after which we can touch them.

By and large we then graze and trample most of them down as quickly as possible with our Romney sheep.

This year we have first cut a sample of the cover, to weigh and test, in order to estimate the amount of nutrients it contains that are potentially available to the following spring crop.

See also: Long-term benefits of cover crops examined on Suffolk farm

Grazing of course rather complicates this; I guess some nutrients will be walked off but on the other hand some will be more available than if left in green form, but what the exact figures might be is tricky to say.

Future options

Increasingly these cover crops seem to be growing for longer through the winter, ours have certainly kept going until now and we’ve had radish flowering in December.

Regardless of the arguments we are trying to plan what we might do without glyphosate to finish them off pre-drilling.

Decent frosts to roll or crimp on have been few and far between here in recent years, particularly after grazing.

One option is growing an all-smothering mix of species easily controlled in the following spring crop, and another inevitably is some form of cultivation.

Personally, I’d rather avoid ploughing so we’ve ordered a small wavy disc cultivator to experiment with some very shallow movement and cutting.

Comparing beans

My neighbour has done some ploughing on some land we are farming together and incredibly it is so dry we could drill the planned beans now, if only the seed had arrived.

When we planted five different varieties of bean as a companion crop with the oilseed rape, purely to use up whatever was available, we found some of the varieties to be less susceptible to AstroKerb than others.

If only we had subconsciously remembered which variety we planted where.

Andy Barr farms 700ha in Kent, including. 400ha of combinable crops that includes milling wheat and malting barley. He also grazes 800 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle and the farm uses conservation agriculture methods.

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