Three ahead pondering arable and horticultural farmers, who each grow different plants in a shared rented land rotation, are pioneering a collaborative method to improving the long-term health of their soils. Jepco, Lovedon Estates and Worth Farm presented overwintering cover vegetation into their shared rotations to beef up organic matter and soil health and to assess the affect on yields and high quality of their money crops – sugar beet, potatoes and lettuce. The collaboration is a part of the AHDB GREATsoils programme and early anecdotal comments indicates the farmer-led trial is already beginning to reap rewards.
Nick Sheppard, Jepco mentioned: “We have found an increase of almost eight per cent in lettuce yield after overwintering cover crops, compared to bare soils. We also perceived a reduction in fuel use in soil cultivations and better water infiltration after heavy rain falls in the lettuce fields that had an overwintered cover crop, compared to fields which were ploughed or left as an over winter stubble.” Jerry Alford, arable and soils marketing consultant for Soil Association, said: “Traditionally growing in a shared rotation has meant that soil health is of secondary importance because there is no incentive to improve the soil for someone else’s benefit.”
“In this field lab, cover crop choice now has to work for all three businesses because the risks, as well as any benefits, affect them all.”
The trials when compared overwintering duvet vegetation to reveal soils. Each of the companies organised and paid for the larger integration of their own cover vegetation in their individual rotation. Different duvet plants trialled integrated oats, Italian rye grass, vetch and mustard. The affect at the rotation was assessed on: soil health and organic matter; soil ‘workability’; money crop well being and high quality; and financial parameters. Initially operating from summer time 2016 to summer 2017, the businesses have now agreed a joint long-term strategic collaborative approach.
Grace Choto, wisdom trade supervisor at AHDB Horticulture, said
“This field lab is demonstrating that different growers can work together effectively to build soils health. This fashion can be used via growers producing crops on rented land, for the benefit of all involved. Healthy, resilient soils will lend a hand sustain crop production smartly into the future.’’
“The results in only the first year have been incredibly impressive. It shows both the impact using cover crops can have, as well as the value of grower collaboration.”
GREATsoils is an AHDB-funded programme to help growers strengthen the health of their soils. a Sequence of GREATsoils events will likely be held throughout the UK all the way through the autumn. To find out extra and to ebook your home, discuss with horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/greatsoils