Cover crops, yes or no?

jds

New Member
Having previously tried over winter cover crops around 5 years ago and finding it to be unsuccessful I have now moved to a farm which is now only just started to use over winter covers for direct spring drilling?
What's everyone's view on cover crops? Is it worthwhile?
 

juke

Member
Location
DURHAM
worth while everytime, no doubt about it in my eyes... the tricky bit is getting the right mix to suit the farm and to achieve what you want. the system is never the problem 99 percent of the time..
 

jpd

Member
Location
rep of irl
jury still out
i sow s barley stubbles for an environment scheme
this year we had a dry feb but there were sheep grazing on it
so possibly held up some spring work
a lot of volunteer fodder rape when i did get it sown
which took a long while to react to the herbicide
tbh
the volunteer barley that grows on stubble after harvest
would supply as much green manure back to the soil
but
because im in an environment scheme
i get paid to sow it
the cultivation helps the soil
i have something to let to sheep boys
and it exempts me from the 3 crop rule
 
Last edited:

Oscar

Member
For me they don t really work too expensive and cause more work. Rather spend money on more FYM and sewage cake etc. However ,I do leave stubbles to green up and leave to at least Febuary rather than spraying in November and a winter like last year I had a fair ground cover of vols ,AMG and various weeds.
Should point out that I have no machinery(other than SP sprayer) so every job I have to get cheque book out.
 

Brisel

Member
Location
Dorset
Such a big topic!

I grow a lot of stewardship funded winter cover crops as I am 50% spring cropping here. Direct drilling all crops. Until I can get a disc drill that will sow directly into standing green cover crops I have to spray them off in Jan/Feb to make sure most of the biomass has gone by the time I want to drill in March. As above, they don't remove much soil moisture at that time of year so a thick canopy will only slow drying. Direct drilling always means being more patient in spring and the last few years have seen wet March weather forcing drilling into April then we've had dry conditions afterwards which don't favour late sowing. Spring crop yields are a bit below what we used to get especially on the last sown land.

On the plus side, I haven't had any soil erosion outside steep tramlines or farm tracks for years since moving to this system & the soil health has definitely improved. Worm numbers are increasing & I know this will be more resilient in the longer term.
 

Badshot

Member
Location
Kent
My linseed is better where the cover was grazed now.
Interestingly enough it looked to be better early on due to moisture to the surface where there was heavy cover.
It hasn't transpired to be the case.
Flea beetle was no different, possibly more slugs, think I'll try again .
 

rob1

Member
Location
wiltshire
IMVHO its entirely dependant on soi type and rainfall, the only way to know is to try it a few times for yourself, we have, and it doesnt here which is a shame as I really wish it would, I think a permanant prostrate white clover under storey is the future with a disc drill with perhaps a dose of something to either kill or temporarily reduce the clover in the drilling zone to allow the crop to get up and away is the future, huge cost savings on weed control and some on N, biggest issue for me is the straw as we want it to sell intothe horse market so want it cut low, its a shame the stripper headers dont work better in wheat as we could cut it with a mower, either that cut just below the heads and hopefuy above the clover with the combine and then mow the field afterwards. Getting into the system is the hard bit, perhaps some fallow with the clover drilled in so weeds can be cut until the clover smothers them especially the BG
 

DrWazzock

Member
Location
Lincolnshire
I wouldn't go back to widespread ploughing.

I try to get some return from our cover crops by making sure they are always grazed with livestock. Covers so far have been mostly stubble turnips or cereal volunteers, particularly oats which grew to form a big cover last year then were grazed and trampled by the sheep. By the time of drilling the next Spring crop the cover has just about gone and drilling it was easy.

I'd be wary of growing a cover and leaving it ungrazed then spraying off and drilling. There is too much potential there for a big build up in slug numbers and indeed flea beetle. I'd also be concerned about plant disease and virus carryover, and N lock up and toxins on cover breakdown. The animals solve most of that by turning it into organic fertiliser.

I keep saying it but livestock do bring a lot to the party as far as arable farming is concerned. I had a big brome problem after zero till winter cereals and OSR. I knew another winter cereal crop would see the brome get out of control. So it went in with stubble turnips direct drilled at very low cost. The sheep grazed them over winter, trampled the brome seed in so it was constantly chitting and being eaten off. Then in Spring a clean up spray of glyphosate and direct drilled with Spring barley. Can't find any brome.

Keep the soil working, don't leave it bare and exposed as far as possible. Buy and fatten store lambs on arable covers over winter. Fit in nicely though they aren't without some effort. Less work than breeding sheep thing.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Location
Lincolnshire
I should add the above works well in the light land. Not so good on the clay. It's goes down too hard and tight by spring with livestock for successful direct drilling. At the moment I am leaving that land down to permanent grass until I can think of a better plan than ploughing it and power harrowing it to death.
 

fred.950

Member
Such a big topic!

I grow a lot of stewardship funded winter cover crops as I am 50% spring cropping here. Direct drilling all crops. Until I can get a disc drill that will sow directly into standing green cover crops I have to spray them off in Jan/Feb to make sure most of the biomass has gone by the time I want to drill in March. As above, they don't remove much soil moisture at that time of year so a thick canopy will only slow drying. Direct drilling always means being more patient in spring and the last few years have seen wet March weather forcing drilling into April then we've had dry conditions afterwards which don't favour late sowing. Spring crop yields are a bit below what we used to get especially on the last sown land.

On the plus side, I haven't had any soil erosion outside steep tramlines or farm tracks for years since moving to this system & the soil health has definitely improved. Worm numbers are increasing & I know this will be more resilient in the longer term.
I might know of a second hand very well maintained 6m Avatar for sale :whistle:
 

Jolly

Member
Location
West Midlands
Cover crops working well here black oats and vetch planting spring Wheat directly with vaderstad with as little disturbance as possible
Fighting big rye grass problem, the system is working for us just have to be patient in the spring !
 

GeorgeK

Member
Location
Leicestershire
Looking at a single year in isolation they often add costs and work, not always providing a benefit in terms of yield. Cover crops have to thought of as a long term plan to invest in the soil, which will pay dividends down the line
 

Oscar

Member
Looking at a single year in isolation they often add costs and work, not always providing a benefit in terms of yield. Cover crops have to thought of as a long term plan to invest in the soil, which will pay dividends down the line
I agree with you but its the spending now for maybe a benefit in 5 years which is hard to comprehend . My current system [FYM / S Cake] is a shorter pay back and is really obvious in following crops.
 

pgk

Member
Took on a block of oats and vetch to graze store lambs on last winter. Lambs did well and owner must have been pleased as offered us 25% more of same this winter. Looked at spring oats that were direct drilled after winter cover sprayed off, they were a little sick looking early April now a fine crop.
 

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