Cover crop mixes improve fallow soils – South East Farmer – Ed Brown
Cover crop mixes including options designed to improve the structure of land left fallow this spring are on offer. ...
“This year specifically, a lot of fields are in a mess after late-harvested crops like maize, potatoes and carrots, while others remain waterlogged,” says Ed Brown Hutchinsons bioagriecologist. “We’re past the situation where winter wheat is viable, while spring barley prospects don’t look great given the saturated market and likely difficulties of creating a seedbed in time.”
Leaving fallow land bare and trying to rectify structural issues with cultivations alone is likely to exacerbate poor soil structure so cover crops will have a vital role, he says. Spring cover crops are ideal as they can be sown from mid-April giving time for conditions on waterlogged land to improve.
“You need roots in the soil to feed biology, restructure soils, build organic matter and act as a water pump to manage moisture through the profile. The benefits of cover crops are well-proven.”
Mr Brown has worked with Hutchinsons colleagues to develop five cover crop mixes, including two short-term spring/summer catch crop mixes and three options for overwinter cover.
The mixes are based on a diverse variety of species as experience has shown these more effective than those featuring just one or two. Diversity delivers wider benefits to soil structure improvement, nutrient capture, and organic matter additions, says Mr Brown.