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Cover crops are an important part of our rotation

For Rob and Matt Turner who farm on the edge of the Salisbury Plain, cover crops have increasingly become an important addition to their rotation since their introduction in 2015.

Mr Turner's cover crop in Wiltshire
Cover crop in Wiltshire

During that time we have experimented with a number of combinations and found that product choice must be what suits your individual needs both in terms of soil type and crop rotation.

Currently we are using a cereal, vetch, phacelia and oil radish mix which we have found has improved the soil structure, resulting in fewer cultivations. Soil health has improved as a result and worm numbers have increased.

The mix survives well through the winter and we have been able to graze it  with young stock from the suckler herd after the January cut off point , for 6 – 8 weeks before sowing a spring crop directly into the seed bed.

Green manure crops not only improve the soil status, composition and nutrient balance but also provide a base for an environmentally friendly approach to today’s farming practices.

Cover crop benefits

  • Improve soil health by adding organic matter to the soil.
  • Increase biological activity.
  • Improve soil structure.
  • Reduce soil erosion and run off.
  • Surpress weed and reduce leaching.
  • Increase the supply of nutrients available to the next crop.
  • Nematode control.
  • Count towards EFA points.

Plant species

ForFarmers top tips for getting the most out of your cover crops:

  • A wide range of plant species can be used for green manure.
  • Different crops bring various benefits and the final choice is influenced by many factors.
  • If the most is to be made of green manuring crops it is important that they are carefully integrated into the crop rotation and attention is paid to the crop husbandry.
  • Different species can be mixed to extend the function of the mixture.
  • Include fast growing species to help suppress weed growth.
  • Different rooting depths ensure good soil penetration and utilisation of surplus nutrients.

For more information

For more information about cover crops or crop rotation please speak to your local ForFarmers account manager, call 0330 678 1200 or enquire online here.