Summer covers rather than poor break crop

Discussion in 'Direct Drilling Crops & Agronomy' started by martian, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. martian

    martian DD Moderator

    Location:
    N Herts
    We've got one or two fields which we planted cover crops in last back end with a view to spring drilling and for one reason or another the covers hardly grew and the wet winter has made the whole scene a bit sad looking. These fields want a break and the idea of slotting linseed, peas or beans in and harvesting slightly more than the amount of seed used, doesn't really appeal.

    What we're planning is a summer multi-species cover which we can then mob-graze in Aug/September which will allow our pastures a slightly longer recovery period at a lean time of year and, with any luck, allow us to keep the cattle out that bit longer this coming back end. As well as giving us a cracking, cheap first wheat next year.

    So, questions...what to plant and when to drill? What to plant, in my mind, is a mix of whatever is to hand and some C4's like maize, sorghum, millet, sunflowers, buckwheat coupled with stubble turnips, linseed etc. Grasses/cereals? There's a lot of brome/blackgrass plants on ground at the moment. If we wait till they flower and then graze hard or top (or crimp?) and then drill the covers, will that be too late to get the full benefit of the cover (albeit coupled with a feeling of smugness at avoiding a glyphosate spray)?

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Wigeon

    Wigeon Member

    Interesting one. My experience of topping blackgrass at flowering simply leads to it putting on more, and lower, tillers. Repeating the process has the same effect, with the resulting heads so low that the topper just puts stones through the cab... no experience of grazing it though, but it could work with good management.

    I tried drilling a beans and barley summer cover on some fallow last year. Looked nice and the following wheat is definitely stronger than in the next field which followed oats. Pic was taken on 19th June.
     

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  3. Simon Chiles

    Simon Chiles DD Moderator

    Exactly this and @martian since when did grazing anything graminaceous kill it? It’s all out war and you’ve got to nuke it at every opportunity. If you want a warm fuzzy feeling why don’t you plant the cleanest field into phacelia, you’ll do your bit for the bees and the hover flies, you’ll dramatically improve the soil and if you get the chance to combine it you could have some seed for other covers later, call me if you want the settings for your T series. As for the others I’d go for a mix of anything you think will bulk up most and give a flexible grazing period, I imagine that we’ll go from swamp to drought before you know it ( nature has a way of balancing things up ) and I expect you might be grateful for every bit of extra grazing. If you end up planting it late I’d go for millet, when the soil temp is up it’ll come out of the ground like a rocket and whilst it’s probably not the best grazing ( I think the Ukrainians even make hay out of it) you’d certainly have some bulk.
     
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  4. martian

    martian DD Moderator

    Location:
    N Herts
    Funnily enough it was our agronomist who suggested grazing the blackgrass. We had a very dirty oat/bg companion crop last year which we cut for silage when the bg was flowering and we had almost 100% kill rate. The oats were a different story...we ended up letting them regrow and combining them (bit of a waste of time, but cleared the ground for next crop). Maybe it was the allelopathy of the oats which did for the bg, but done for it was. Similarly, where we grew a summer cover round the Groundswell site, the blackgrass didn't like it. We ended up rolling the cover flat and drilling into it and round-upping after. The following wheat looks so healthy, it's what spurred me on with this idea.
     
    Pedders likes this.
  5. Wigeon

    Wigeon Member

    That's really interesting. My experiment above ended up being rather management intensive, as I topped it twice and then sprayed it off, as the wretched stuff just kept coming. Cover was just beans and spring barley off the heap. Finding some proper antagonism in a cover crop would be a useful discovery!
     
    martian likes this.
  6. Andy Howard

    Andy Howard Member

    Location:
    Ashford, Kent
    @martian what did you end up doing? I wish I hadn’t bothered Drill one very heavy clay field this spring. Been a complete disaster. It is going into 2yr legume fallow this autumn under stewardship, be glad not to have to worry about it for a couple of yrs.
     
  7. martian

    martian DD Moderator

    Location:
    N Herts
    We sprayed off the volunteers and drilled a multi-species cover crop in, on a couple of fields. Got a nice splash of rain and then the slugs came along and ate the whole lot. I have got a bit complacent about slugs, all our other spring crops came away fine, but we were drilling them at 200kg/ha seed rate, the covers were more like 40kg and we didn't roll them in because we got the rain just right. Had a walk out there yesterday, there are a few vetches growing and the odd rye. Will maybe re-drill, want some roots in the ground...
     
  8. Andy Howard

    Andy Howard Member

    Location:
    Ashford, Kent
    Slugs have been horrendous on our heavy clay this year.
     

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