Cover crops improve drilling conditions

Early season trial results show the benefits that cover crops have on spring drilling conditions and overall soil health.

The trial is part of Agrovista’s Project Lamport site – a replicated research project that investigates the impact of cultivations, compaction and cover crops on soil structure, organic matter and microbiology, and blackgrass populations.

Although official trial work for 2020 has only recently commenced, the visible differences between the plots soon became apparent when spring crops were drilled late last month.

Farming Systems Research & Development Advisor, Niall Atkinson, is overseeing the trial. He said: “The visual differences are abundantly clear – the tyre marks are much deeper for the plots that follow blackgrass cover and surface compaction is evident.

“Whereas for the cover crop plots, tyre marks are virtually non-existent, which shows the important role they play in extracting moisture from the soil. This could be the difference between being able to travel to drill and not.

“Not only that, the crop has soaked up nutrients that would have otherwise been lost through leaching, and there is a proliferation of worms, meaning a more stable soil structure.”

All plots were drilled using a tractor fitted with Michelin Ultraflex VR tyres at a maximum pressure of 10psi.

The trial will be monitored through the coming months, to see how the different plots and treatments develop through the season, through to yield.

Niall added: “One of the questions we’re often asked at Lamport is whether cover crops are really worth the investment when growers could use blackgrass as a ‘cover’.

“I think evidence such as this is very useful in demonstrating their value right from the off, from the moment it comes to drill the subsequent crop. That’s before we’ve looked at other benefits such as weed and disease control, crop health and yield.”

Agrovista has recently launched a new cover crops brochure, featuring a range of leading seed varieties and mixes. View online here. For more information, visit www.agrovista.co.uk

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.