Cover Crop Destruction

Message from Jon Nott, Farm Manager at Shotesham Estates

You may have recently noticed that some of the fields along Roger’s Lane are currently brown and wondered why. This is due to an exciting shift fully into a new cropping system known as conservation agriculture. The aim of this system is to further improve our soil health by disturbing the soil and its vital organisms such as worms and mycorrhizal fungi as little as possible. Last August we planted a cover crop of Phacelia, Vetch and Black Oats ahead of a spring drilled crop of either Beans or Sugar Beet. This mix was chosen because the three species have different rooting zones and as such, they keep the profile of the soil alive and working through the winter months instead of the ground being bare and fallow. The mix also fixes nitrogen from the air into the soil and binds other nutrients that may otherwise have been leached away. To allow the spring crop to successfully establish, the cover crop was sprayed off following drilling and has been left to naturally break down and release its nutrients for the new crop. The benefits of conservation agriculture are widespread and include increased soil carbon sequestration, better water retention, more winter cover for wildlife and a reduction in pesticide applications.