By what percentage have cover crops increased the bottom line of your business?

MX7

Member
Location
cotswolds
As above , if they haven’t why are you growing them????
Is it in anticipation of “Jam Next Year”??
I appreciate that if you are farming heavy land , the cover crops may slowly be improving the soil structure which is hard to quantify in financial terms.
 
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Growing cover crops isn't about getting hung up on tangible social constructs, such as money, margins and 'bottom lines'.

The benefits of cover crops are to be found in the intangibles such as soil microflora, carbon sequestration, public goods and the warm fuzzy feeling of smugness that you get when you post pictures of your black oat/oil radish/goji berry/phacelia blend on instagram.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
We're grazing them, not cropping, but grazing them this winter increased our carrying capacity and thus our winter cashflow also doubled.

Looking at it from a financial POV we spent the same amount as we would have making silage, but we redirected that into seed and buying a bit of hay in.
As we don't use fertiliser, that bought-in energy makes a difference that is compounding, in much the same way overseeding pastures can.
It also meant a massive decrease in tractor hours, 25 as opposed to 65 over the past 6 months.
 
As above , if they haven’t why are you growing them????
Is it in anticipation of “Jam Next Year”??
I appreciate that if you are farming heavy land , the cover crops may slowly be improving the soil structure which is hard to quantify in financial terms.
They are a pain in the ass to be honest but we need to accept it’s part of modern farming. ELMS will be based around things like cover cropping so it’s part of life. Another £20-£40/ha spend time tick some boxes. I know people putting fertiliser on cover crops and spraying them with herbs. Serviced agronomy companies have sold them expensive seed and then fool them into applying inputs to get the things to grow. All because they’ve lost income through later wheat drilling so reduced herbicide spends and no osr about.

They keep clay soils very wet so you get wheelings from toppers mowing them down. Or you invest in expensive disc drills to drill straight into them.

You need more glyphosate because on bad grass weed soil you need to glyphosate pre drilling the cover otherwise grass weeds out compete the cover crop, then you glyphosate again before drilling the next crop so we’ve gone from using 4l/ha/year to 8l/ha/year.

It’s also the current trend like ‘min till’ was in the 1990’s.

ELMS will dictate what we do moving forward if you want to stay in business competing against cheap imports. As I’ve said before the U.K. will only be producing organic food down the line running alongside ELMS. All other food will be imported.
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
Mixed here but getting better at managing them and I think they are offering quite a lot now.
Farmers are always looking for silver bullets, because we are used to being plonked a new solution infront of us in a can that last for a while.
That is not happening anymore so we need to think about the whole system and everything that is going on, arable farming has been simplified to the point of a couple of bagged nutrients and some active ingredients but that method of farming is now dead.
Unfortunately the trade have jumped on the bandwagon of cover crops/soil health. Selling ludicrously prices cover crop mixes with a load of bullpoo spiel around them. Also selling software suites with ‘soil health’ and complicated nutrient audits across the whole acerage which are just not needed and offer no value.
whether you like it not this kind of stuffis here to stay so best put the effort in to researching away from trade magazines and visiting farmers who are doing all this stuff successfully on all soil types, they are out there.
 

teslacoils

Member
Location
Lincolnshire
Even a thick crop of volunteers causes issues in spring. Aphids. Slugs. And you need to have them sprayed off in January really. They don't really do a job for us in drying the soil, but in the future there will be no way we can leave bare land over winter.

On the other hand, I've a field in ab6 fallow after well shaken spring oats that will be a complete carpet by November. I'm checking to see if there is anything I can do with then before january. Where oats are broadcast on to undisturbed land, the biomass abd root mass they make in a year is ace. Easy ploughing for sure.

If I had land I could plough in spring, then I'd use a cover crop all the time.
 

ajd132

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Suffolk
Even a thick crop of volunteers causes issues in spring. Aphids. Slugs. And you need to have them sprayed off in January really. They don't really do a job for us in drying the soil, but in the future there will be no way we can leave bare land over winter.

On the other hand, I've a field in ab6 fallow after well shaken spring oats that will be a complete carpet by November. I'm checking to see if there is anything I can do with then before january. Where oats are broadcast on to undisturbed land, the biomass abd root mass they make in a year is ace. Easy ploughing for sure.

If I had land I could plough in spring, then I'd use a cover crop all the time.
i agree. on heavy land you need to destroy the cover crop early enough. it will not dry the soil out in the spring.
 

robbie

Member
For me I dont think it's really a +or -.
As with all thinks sold to farmers it's all about margin for someone else and these fancy mixes are a real money spinner for the companies selling them but if you shop around and buy straight bags of seed and mix them up the cost is reasonable.

I sow them of the back of a cultivator and that would be going through weather I was seeing it not.

Either I'm payed by someone who grazes them which give or take covers seed cost and I get the "golden hoof" effect or I plough them in in spring and get the organic matter which is always welcome on lightland and in itself covers the seed price.

If I had to use glyphosate and spray them off or if I was on heavy ground which needed ploughing over before xmas I wouldnt bother but ahead of spring barley or beet or even late drilled autumn cereals they work well.
 
Get paid 120 per ha under stewardship
they retain some nutrients and the roots help with soil structure
with notill patience is needed with or without a cover crop

in a dry Sunny spring retention of moisture
in a wet year later planting. Reduces weeds
 

MX7

Member
Location
cotswolds
Many thanks for your posts. I only ask as a retired tenant farmer who rarely had surplus funds to chase an Ethos that had no obvious financial return, to justify my bank manager extending my overdraft , bank managers are only interested in figures, not listening to ones Ethos that will create "Jam For Tomorrow".
Please correct me if you have had a different experience .
 

MX7

Member
Location
cotswolds
We’ve grown them for ever and a day, but called it a catch crop of stubble turnips, which sheep graze and we make money from it. Meanwhile the sheep destroy it without using chemicals and leave plenty of muck behind. Recycling if you like.
Thats what Dad used to do, yet the younger members of TFF and the farming fraternity i.e "BASE"members think they have come across something new. :banghead::banghead:;)
The expression "What comes around,goes around"comes to mind ,I will leave it at that.;)
 

Jinx

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
East Scotland
Difficult to say because I think it's a long term strategy with 'payback' taking time. Hearing the way some people talk about them they view them as a box ticking exercise and go for the cheapest product possible. I try to view them as another type of input and select the product according to what I want it to do, i.e. soil structure improvement or soil nutrition improvement or to aid pest control, etc.
 

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