Just back from a great morning at Rhode Farm near Goathurst with FWAG-SW looking at the benefits of planting cover crops. This morning was the first in a series of workshops / talks aimed at local farmers / landowners to promote resilience in farming and forestry. A cover crop is a crop (grass, herbs or other plant) planted in winter primarily to manage the soil rather than to generate an income.
After a quick coffee we had an introductory session from Jo Oborn (Resource Protection Specialist) and Ian Wilkinson of Cotswold Grass Seed Direct about the benefits of cover crops for the farmer. These range from the obvious such as soil protection during high winter rainfall to the less obvious such as increased mineral absorption in following crops. This generated plenty of discussion about reduced levels of inputs, such as nitrogen, the role of livestock as herbicides are reduced and which species compositions work best.
It was then time to have a look at some of the cover crops planted by local farmer Steve Adams in his nearby fields. The weather was wonderful which allowed us plenty of time to have a look at the crop and the root and soil structures and see how this benefited Steve’s farming systems. For me, as a complete novice, it was really interesting hearing different experience from the farmers and seeing how each farm was using or considering using cover crops in different ways. It is important to understand the benefits of cover crops beyond purely cash value, and the role they can play in increasing soil fertility, reduce soil erosion and flood risks and reduce soil pest levels.
The funding for these projects has been provided by West Somerset Council and is being managed by the Quantock Hills AONB Service.