AHDB cover crop research at our NEW Sittingbourne Monitor Farm
In July we launched our first Monitor Farm within Kent, hosted by our new Monitor Farmer, Mark Bowsher-Gibbs who is the Estate manager for G.H Dean & Co. The launch was attended by over 70 people from the arable farming industry.
As part of being a Monitor Farmer they are often asked to participate in relevant AHDB on farm research. By undertaking these research projects on the farm it not only helps the Monitor Farmer, but also becomes an interesting topic to closely follow and discuss at our Monitor Farm meetings. By having these trials on the farm we can also bring in experts who can help analyse and explain data in order to identify viable opportunities that can potentially be utilised by other farmers.
As part of the AHDB’s continued research programmes, Mark has kindly agreed to participate in a new country wide research project titled “Maximising the benefits from cover crops through species selection and crop management”: otherwise now known as the “Maxi Cover Crop Project.”
This research project is one of many funded by the AHDB as part of our strategy to:
- Inform on-farm decisions to increase productivity;
- Improve business opportunities through understanding product quality and making the most of market potential;
- Prepare the industry by assessing future challenges and conducting activity in response to these challenges.
With regard to the “Maxi Cover Crop,” it is a three-year research project that will endeavour to increase our knowledge and understanding of the benefits, optimal crop management practices and knowledge gaps associated with different cover crop species. This project has been generated from farmers in all sectors wanting to gain more factual knowledge associated with the viability and, suitability of various species used in such cropping regimes and the data collected will answer questions with regard to the impact that cover crops have on the following two to three cash crops, taking into account rooting structures, yield, soil moisture, nutrient uptake, soil nitrogen, organic matter, earthworm counts, soil strength and lastly but by no means least, the environmental and biodiversity benefits.
With regard to the species that Mark will be growing at G H Dean and Co, two different mixes will be planted on the farm over late summer period:
Mix 1 – will consist of oats and crimson clover (Note that there are certainly data recorded for crimson clover, but it is being tested here as an example of a small-seeded legume, and has previously been shown to be a successful component in mixes.)
Mix 2- will consist of five species namely oilseed radish, oats, crimson clover, phacelia and buckwheat.
(These mixes will then be followed by a cash crop of Spring Barley)
In 2017 Mark will also undertake various try-outs in different cultivation and establishment techniques together with a comparison in “kill-off”/ sowing preparation methods that may involve contrasts in the use and cost of chemicals versus crimper rollers and livestock grazing, although the specific details of the cultivation and establishment are still to be decided.
If you would like to follow this project more closely, why not come along to our next Sittingbourne Monitor Farm event on November 10 2016 starting at 10:30am?
For further detail please contact – Paul Hill, Knowledge Exchange Manager SE, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds. E: Paul.Hill@ahdb.org.uk
T: 07964 243699