Cover crops are being considered on many arable farms and visitors to next week’s Cereals event can see for themselves what different species offer by visiting the new soil pit feature.
Getting the most out of cover crops comes down to choosing the right mix and understanding the purpose of growing it. For example mustard is ideal for capturing nitrogen.
To help farmers, the new soil pit feature sponsored by by Niab Tag and Rothamsted Research comprises a pit 8m long, 4m wide and 1.2m deep with cover crops mixes grown down the side.
Ron Stobart, head of farming systems at Niab Tag, said: “We encourage farmers to think about best practice, to consider the benefits cover crops could bring to their farms and to develop what they have seen to suit their own farm situations.”
The four cover crop mixes, each specifically selected for strong root growth, that are on show are:
Tillage radish is a fast growing brassica. It can grow rapidly in the autumn producing deep roots that help to open and potentially rectify structural issues.
Tillage radish helps “mop up” nitrogen and can help to improve soil structure.
Radish and spring oat mix
A mix of a deep rooting brassica (radish) and a vigorous cereal (oats) is used to provide ground cover and soil improvement. The components have different and complementary above ground and below ground characteristics.
Spring oats, radish, vetch and phacelia mix
A wide ranging mix, that in addition to the oats and radish, introduces a legume, vetch. Vetch is vigorous and will fix nitrogen at certain times of the year.
Crimson clover, black medick and vetch mix
The mix of three legumes is based on an approach developed originally in a Defra LINK project. These nitrogen fixing legumes have been found to complement each other well.
The Cereals event is being held at Chrishall Grange, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, on 15 and 16 June and tickets are available to buy online.