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.

Cover cropping ahead of spring drilling can help protect soils over-winter and return organic matter. Grazing cover crops by sheep may help to improve gross margins from cover cropping reducing feed costs, returning nitrogen in a readily available form and may reduce the reliance on glyphosate to terminate cover crops. However, if not managed correctly grazing can damage soil structure thereby increasing the risk of run-off and soil erosion.

Three farms will trial out grazing sheep with cover crops, all using the same cover crops. The will assess cover crop biomass, utilisation and yield and keep a record of management practices and livestock performance and health. At the 'hub' site (representing the most applicable soil type), researchers from ADAS will undertake additional soil assessments.

Other farmers will be supported to follow the methodology of the Field Lab, including providing them with the trial layout and procedures to complete their own assessments

View Field Lab on Innovative Farmers website

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ADAS provides ideas, specialist knowledge and solutions to secure our food and enhance the environment. We understand food production and the challenges and opportunities faced by organisations operating in the natural environment

Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.

Innovative Farmers has now been running for a decade, facilitating farmer-led research to some of

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.  

Sheep were one of the first farmed animals, reared for thousands of years for meat and milk.