cover crop (from Maxi-CC report)

Cover crops are grown primarily to ‘protect or improve’ soils between periods of regular crop production. They can be effective at improving soil functions by increasing soil nutrient and water retention, improving soil structure/quality, reducing the risk of soil erosion, surface run-off and diffuse pollution by providing soil cover and by managing weeds or soil-borne pests.

 

For the benefits of cover crops to be fully realised, understanding what different cover crop species can achieve and how to manage them on different soil types and rotations is crucial.To be of benefit consider:            

  • Species choice – what do you want to achieve & does it fit with your rotation? Drilling a mix of species can provide multiple benefits and reduces risks, but is more costly and potentially more complicated to manage. Potential species to include can be divided into: legumes (to enhance soil fertility), brassicas (for nutrient uptake and soil structure), cereals (providing rapid cover and nutrient uptake) and ‘others’ (e.g. Phacelia and Buckwheat for nutrient scavenging abilities).
  • Establishment - drill as early as possible (August rather than September) to maximise the benefits of cover crops, particularly to ensure good crop cover and nutrient recovery. Highest N recovery tends to be associated with either species that are able to fix additional N (i.e. clover and vetch) or establish good above or below ground biomass, early in the season (radish, phacelia, cereals).
  • Destruction - leave a good window between destruction and spring crop establishment, particularly on heavy textured soils in wet springs. Cover crops are most commonly destroyed chemically, but other non-chemical methods are being explored such as mechanical destruction by flailing, crimping or rolling on a frost, or consider sheep grazing, which can provide an additional source of income.
  • Investment required - be prepared for variable yield impacts and the need for repeated cover cropping to realise the benefits over the longer-term. Soil structural improvement from a single year of cover cropping can be difficult to detect.

There is lots of recent and on-going work on Cover Crops, and lots of farmers trying them out in recent years. Share your projects and experience below...

Related Organisations

Content below is from across the PEP community and is not necessarily endorsed by Stewards or by PEP

Topic Comments

Discussion

Interesting twitter thread about the use of cover crops under the SFI Soil Standard - lots of discussion about 'what works' and what doesn't: https://twitter.com/JanetHughes/status/1537026666463207426

 

2

Interesting video of Ben Adams' experience of cover crop establishment:

 

0

Connected Content

ADAS has the largest group of crop physiologists in the UK The ADAS crop physiology team focuses on improving performance and sustainability of cropping systems for food, feed and biofuel production.

Regenerative farming looks to optimise the use of the ecological system and environment, in order to benefit from the natural ecosystem services that they provide.

Nitrogen is required annually by most crops (except pulses) to achieve yield and quality. Judging how much N to apply is a key part of nutrient management.

Anglian Water is the largest water and water recycling company in England and Wales by geographic area. We supply water and water recycling services to almost seven million people in the East of England and Hartlepool.     

Catchment Sensitive Farming is a free farm advice programme funded by the UK government. It works with farmers, communities, and organisations across England to improve the quality of water, air, and sustainable water management.

Tell us how you are improving your soils. Share useful resources, organisations and initiatives.

The intricate web of relationships between physical, chemical and biological soil components underpins crop and livestock health and productivity.

Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Definition from FAO.

This Topic doesn't yet have a Stewarded summary, but connected groups, content and organisations show below. Click the 'Ask to Join' button if you would like to be a Steward for this Topic and provide a summary of current knowledge and recommend useful resources, organisations, networks and projects. "Like" this Topic if you would like to see it prioritised for providing a wikipedia style summary.

Today’s farmers keenly understand their roles as custodians of our farmed environment. Agriculture is a vital industry in East Anglia, but in the driest region in the UK water supplies are precious and needs safeguarding.  Anglian Water is working closely with farmers to ensure that we maintain healthy water quality as well as healthy crops and a healthy rural economy.

We supply top quality drinking water to 2.2 million customers in the south east of England and work with farmers and landowners to protect and enhance river and groundwater quality.

The major commodity crops in the UK are wheat, barley, oilseed rape, field beans, sugar beet and potatoes, but around half of agricultural land grows grass.   

This page is to connect organisations, projects and resources that have an interest in improving the quality of our water sources.

Project objectives To quantify the impact of contrasting cover crop mixes and destruction techniques on over winter nitrate leaching, soil nitrogen supply (and hence crop nitrogen fertiliser requirements) and performance of the following cash crop. In particular to determine the: effect of cover crop species mix on the quantity and timing of nitrogen returned to the soil effect of cover crop destruction method e.g. glyphosate & min till/direct drill vs mechanical destruction & min till/direct drill To determine the timing of nitrogen release from cover crops and potential legacy (year 2) effects on nitrate leaching and crop performance

Share your ideas and experience of how to improve nutrient efficiency and reduce dependence on artificial fertilisers

Results from an Innovative Farmers Field Lab with University of Lincoln and Anglian Water showed benefits from drilling rather than broadcasting to establish a catch crop.   

A half-day workshop will share new findings about the management of ground cover to improve soil quality and improve nutrient retention, and discuss how to incorporate these findings into arable rotations.

Despite the many benefits of growing maize, conventional growing practices can lead to negative environmental impacts, particularly in terms of soil erosion and runoff.   A group of farmers in the SW have set up a field lab to demonstrate that by changing the way maize is grown, you can reduce these negative impacts without reducing yield.  These changes include a move to strip tilling rather than conventional ploughing, and trialing different cover crops, both seasonal and perennial,  to enhance soil health and reduce inputs.

 

Watch video of ADAS webinar on results from Cover Crops research:   &nbs

Managing nutrients effectively is crucial for our soils, crops, livestock and environment. There are many resources and initiatives available to help. 

FABulous Farmers is a European project supporting farmers in the transition to more agroecological practices on their farms. Soil Association are delivering activity in 3 UK pilot regions – South West England, West Midlands and Wales, with the National Trust leading activity in the East England. The project aims to reduce reliance on external inputs, like chemical fertilisers and pesticides, by encouraging the use of methods and interventions that increase the farm’s Functional AgroBiodiversity (FAB). These are targeted measures of biodiversity in and around the field to improve pollination, pest management, soil and water quality on the farmland.

This field lab's objective is to investigate the potential of living mulches, creating a permanent clover understory to suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, protect and enhance soil health, as a means to achieving organic and low-input no-till systems - that can be more sustainable than those systems they seek to replace.

This Field Lab explores the impact of grazing sheep on over-winter cover crops on soil properties, crop performance and the management of livestock within an arable rotation.

Interest is growing in using legumes like lucerne or clover as a permanent understory to cereal crops to provide nitrogen through the season.

The FarmSmarter app is an agri-tech decision making service aimed at smallholder farmers.  Our primary focus is to support smallholder farmers in achieving sustainable profitable production developing regions. We are extending our development to cover sustainable farming practices and improvement of biodiversity and soil health in the UK and Europe for future additions to the FarmSmarter digital toolkit.

Clover is commonly used as a cover crop, forage crop, and soil improvement tool. 

Dyson Farming are trialling a range of cover crop species together with Anglian Water and Boston Seeds. Cover crops benefit soils by protecting them from excess water, ice and wind and also maintain nitrogen levels and other nutrients to benefit the next crop.

Warwick Crop Centre is a national centre of excellence for research on fresh produce. We provide post-graduate training and specialise in research projects promoting sustainable agriculture, horticulture and food security.

A joint AFCP and NIAB event exploring what research is needed by farmers and stakeholders.  Hear from researchers looking at cover crops for soil structure and health; fungus and plant nutrient exchange; alleviating subsoil compaction; and more.

Cover crop establishment is affected by several factors, including species, soil type, weather and the rotation. Time of sowing, seed rates and establishment methods all need to be considered.

Concerns over the increasing cost and environmental impact of high inorganic nitrogen (N) inputs have led to a reappraisal of the role of legumes, particularly clover, in maintaining soil fertility in improved grasslands.

Find out about the different types of cover crops, their potential benefits, and how to grow and evaluate them.

COVER CROPS USE ACROSS EUROPE

Cover crops are usually planted within arable rotations between cash crops. They provide a multitude of benefits including building soil fertility, improving soil health and enhancing above and below ground biodiversity.  They provide a multitude of benefits including building soil fertility, improving soil health and enhancing above and below ground biodiversity.  

The ADAS soils and nutrients team will share and discuss results from our recent cover crop research with Affinity Water, Anglian Water, and Portsmouth Water.

A farmer-led guide to cover cropping in the UK

Vining peas are vulnerable to poor soil conditions and soil borne pathogens. Cover crops can be used to improve soil structure and health.

On many arable farms, modern agricultural production has seen the continual removal of residues and intensive tillage of the soil.

There is no shortage of information available on cover crops. However, successfully integrating cover crops into arable rotations, while understanding and navigating the positive and negative impacts can be difficult.

A well-managed cover crop can conserve and protect the soil, boost productivity, capture nitrogen and phosphorus leftover from a main crop or from fall applied manure, and if harvested in the spring, provide additional forage for dairy cattle and other livestock.

Join us for a morning tour and chat with Nuffield Scholar Toby, as we explore the benefits of cover cropping for climate-friendly farming.

Exploring how cover crops can be incorporated into rotations 

Wireworms are the larval stage of click beetles.

Technical Guide

 Sheep and arable farmers lack insight into each other’s work and viewpoint on cover crop.

Every farm and field is different, with a wide interplay of different factors impacting on optimum soil management between them.

A practical guide to soil and system improvement

Cover crops and green manures have multiple positive effects on the soil health. But like all methods, this best practice has also some disadvantages.

Good cover crop destruction will help to pave the way for successful spring cover crop establishment.

Ever wondered which regenerative arable farming practices are the most effective or which combinations work best together?

Cover crops should be viewed as a long-term investment in improved soil health and farm management. 

Join ADAS and AHDB to see the plot demonstrations and discuss pests, weeds and diseases with technical updates and experts on hand.

Report and guidance from the AHDB's Maxi-Cover Crop project 2016-2020 -  M

A group of farmers in the Evenlode catchment is working working with Thames Water and Atkins Glob

Write whatever you want here - this is the main section. You can add links, add pictures and embed videos. To paste text from elsewhere use CTRL+Shift+V to paste without formatting. Add videos by selecting 'Full HTML' below, copying the 'embed html' from the source page (eg Youtube), clicking 'Source' above and pasting where you want the video to appear.
You can upload an image here. It can be jpg, jpeg, gif or png format.
Upload requirements

You can upload a file here, such as a pdf report, or MS Office documents, Excel spreadsheet or Powerpoint Slides.

Upload requirements
Authors Order
Add Authors here - you can only add them if they already exist on PEP. Just start writing their name then select to add it. To add multiple authors click the 'Add another item' button below.

Please ensure that you have proof-read your content. Pages are not edited further once submitted and will go live immediately.

Configure the meta tags below.

Use tokens to avoid redundant meta data and search engine penalization. For example, a 'keyword' value of "example" will be shown on all content using this configuration, whereas using the [node:field_keywords] automatically inserts the "keywords" values from the current entity (node, term, etc).

Browse available tokens.

Simple meta tags.

The text to display in the title bar of a visitor's web browser when they view this page. This meta tag may also be used as the title of the page when a visitor bookmarks or favorites this page, or as the page title in a search engine result. It is common to append '[site:name]' to the end of this, so the site's name is automatically added. It is recommended that the title is no greater than 55 - 65 characters long, including spaces.
A brief and concise summary of the page's content, preferably 150 characters or less. Where as the description meta tag may be used by search engines to display a snippet about the page in search results, the abstract tag may be used to archive a summary about the page. This meta tag is no longer supported by major search engines.

Meta tags that might not be needed by many sites.

Geo-spatial information in 'latitude; longitude' format, e.g. '50.167958; -97.133185'; see Wikipedia for details.
Geo-spatial information in 'latitude, longitude' format, e.g. '50.167958, -97.133185'; see Wikipedia for details.
Robots
A comma-separated list of keywords about the page. This meta tag is used as an indicator in Google News.
Highlight standout journalism on the web, especially for breaking news; used as an indicator in Google News. Warning: Don't abuse it, to be used a maximum of 7 times per calendar week!
This meta tag communicates with Google. There are currently two directives supported: 'nositelinkssearchbox' to not to show the sitelinks search box, and 'notranslate' to ask Google not to offer a translation of the page. Both options may be added, just separate them with a comma. See meta tags that Google understands for further details.
Used to rate content for audience appropriateness. This tag has little known influence on search engine rankings, but can be used by browsers, browser extensions, and apps. The most common options are general, mature, restricted, 14 years, safe for kids. If you follow the RTA Documentation you should enter RTA-5042-1996-1400-1577-RTA
Indicate to search engines and other page scrapers whether or not links should be followed. See the W3C specifications for further details.
Tell search engines when to index the page again. Very few search engines support this tag, it is more useful to use an XML Sitemap file.
Control when the browser's internal cache of the current page should expire. The date must to be an RFC-1123-compliant date string that is represented in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), e.g. 'Thu, 01 Sep 2016 00:12:56 GMT'. Set to '0' to stop the page being cached entirely.

The Open Graph meta tags are used to control how Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social networking sites interpret the site's content.

The Facebook Sharing Debugger lets you preview how your content will look when it's shared to Facebook and debug any issues with your Open Graph tags.

The URL of an image which should represent the content. The image must be at least 200 x 200 pixels in size; 600 x 316 pixels is a recommended minimum size, and for best results use an image least 1200 x 630 pixels in size. Supports PNG, JPEG and GIF formats. Should not be used if og:image:url is used. Note: if multiple images are added many services (e.g. Facebook) will default to the largest image, not specifically the first one. Multiple values may be used, separated by a comma. Note: Tokens that return multiple values will be handled automatically. This will be able to extract the URL from an image field if the field is configured properly.
The URL of an video which should represent the content. For best results use a source that is at least 1200 x 630 pixels in size, but at least 600 x 316 pixels is a recommended minimum. Object types supported include video.episode, video.movie, video.other, and video.tv_show. Multiple values may be used, separated by a comma. Note: Tokens that return multiple values will be handled automatically.
A alternative version of og:image and has exactly the same requirements; only one needs to be used. Multiple values may be used, separated by a comma. Note: Tokens that return multiple values will be handled automatically. This will be able to extract the URL from an image field if the field is configured properly.
The secure URL (HTTPS) of an image which should represent the content. The image must be at least 200 x 200 pixels in size; 600 x 316 pixels is a recommended minimum size, and for best results use an image least 1200 x 630 pixels in size. Supports PNG, JPEG and GIF formats. Multiple values may be used, separated by a comma. Note: Tokens that return multiple values will be handled automatically. This will be able to extract the URL from an image field if the field is configured properly. Any URLs which start with "http://" will be converted to "https://".
The type of image referenced above. Should be either 'image/gif' for a GIF image, 'image/jpeg' for a JPG/JPEG image, or 'image/png' for a PNG image. Note: there should be one value for each image, and having more than there are images may cause problems.
The date this content was last modified, with an optional time value. Needs to be in ISO 8601 format. Can be the same as the 'Article modification date' tag.
The date this content was last modified, with an optional time value. Needs to be in ISO 8601 format.
The date this content will expire, with an optional time value. Needs to be in ISO 8601 format.

A set of meta tags specially for controlling the summaries displayed when content is shared on Twitter.

Notes:
  • no other fields are required for a Summary card
  • Photo card requires the 'image' field
  • Media player card requires the 'title', 'description', 'media player URL', 'media player width', 'media player height' and 'image' fields,
  • Summary Card with Large Image card requires the 'Summary' field and the 'image' field,
  • Gallery Card requires all the 'Gallery Image' fields,
  • App Card requires the 'iPhone app ID' field, the 'iPad app ID' field and the 'Google Play app ID' field,
  • Product Card requires the 'description' field, the 'image' field, the 'Label 1' field, the 'Data 1' field, the 'Label 2' field and the 'Data 2' field.
A description that concisely summarizes the content of the page, as appropriate for presentation within a Tweet. Do not re-use the title text as the description, or use this field to describe the general services provided by the website. The string will be truncated, by Twitter, at the word to 200 characters.
By default Twitter tracks visitors when a tweet is embedded on a page using the official APIs. Setting this to 'on' will stop Twitter from tracking visitors.
The URL to a unique image representing the content of the page. Do not use a generic image such as your website logo, author photo, or other image that spans multiple pages. Images larger than 120x120px will be resized and cropped square based on longest dimension. Images smaller than 60x60px will not be shown. If the 'type' is set to Photo then the image must be at least 280x150px. This will be able to extract the URL from an image field if the field is configured properly.
The MIME type for the media contained in the stream URL, as defined by RFC 4337.