Fully incorporate cover crops for spring drought defence

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Farmers are being encouraged to fully incorporate cover crops to help offset a potential spring drought.

Adam Bartowski, a regional product manager at Timac Agro UK, suggests that doing so will help build soil resilience to such conditions.

He feels that cover crops come into their own in the lead-up to drilling, helping support a strong soil structure and protecting reserves of nutrients. Incorporating them fully into the soil will create a well-aggregated soil structure ahead of the drill.

“Improved structure allows better movement of air and water in the soil, as well as increasing its ability to retain moisture and nutrients going forward.

“By binding the soil particles together, its vulnerability to erosion and leaching from wind and rainfall is reduced, which is especially beneficial before the main crop emerges.”

He also recommends having livestock graze off covers, as this will directly incorporate manures into the soil. “Once livestock have eaten what they want, growers can look to add a soil conditioner to help break down the woody, stemmy vegetation that’s left behind and avoid tying up nitrogen.”

Mr Bartowski advocates for soil testing, as well as advice from agronomists. He says look beyond the pH levels of the soil as the wet winter will have left many soils deficient in sodium, sulphur and calcium.

“A soil conditioner, like Humistart+, that contains both bacterial and fungal feeds, with trace-element-rich marine calcium will speed the break down of organic matter, often removing the need for an additional nitrogen application.”

Where farmyard manures are spread, a soil conditioner can also help to ensure full incorporation. “Organic matter with high carbon to nitrogen ratios (C:N), such as straw and sawdust, require more available nitrogen for microbes to break them down, temporarily restricting nitrogen access for plants.

“Boosting microbial activity with a soil conditioner can remove this deficit, increasing nitrogen availability by as much as 38% for the following crop, while stimulating early rooting through phosphate release.”

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