Cover crop update - autumn 2015

For many growers, this year’s spring presented a tricky time for establishing wild bird seed mixtures.

The prolonged cold and dry period meant that seed bed preparation on the heavy clay soil at Loddington required careful planning to catch the conditions just right.

After drilling, flea beetle attack on the brassica species posed a challenge and took its toll on one or two of the kale based mixtures.

The strategy to spread the cropping types over the last three years allowed us to focus on just a few plots, as the balance are either in second year kale or perennial mixtures of chicory and reed canary grass.

Wild seed mixtures

Autumn sown wild bird seed mixtures have again been a great success, delivering as a brood rearing cover and source of nectar flower. They will continue to provide an extended source of seed for a range of farmland and game species throughout the winter.

The ongoing improvement of existing nectar sources has been particularly interesting in the last few months.

We have used a combination of enhancing field corners and margins as well as the re-establishment of expired nectar flower mixtures and the time spent using graminicides and overseeding has brought significant benefits, helping to illustrate how previously ‘tired’ features can be improved even on heavy soils.

The nectar flower plots sown in 2014 have responded well to the regular topping and with the annual weeds suppressed, are really producing the goods for a wide range of pollinator species.

This experience will prove to be invaluable as many Countryside Stewardship projects will see this is as a key option within the new Farmland Wildlife package.

As always, there is plenty of work going on across all elements of this fascinating project and during the next phase of work, Kings will support the farm and research staff with planting a range of green cover options on land that would previously have been left bare ready for spring planting of oats or beans.

These crops will be used for research, demonstration and farm business purposes and will be a great platform to work from for all involved.

Photo: Autumn sown wild bird seed mixes at our Loddington farm ©Kings

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