Green Winter Cover
Traditionally we aim was to grow as much winter wheat as possible using an intensive tillage model. The only problem with this is that it is very expensive and it relies heavily on a high input model. As the cost of the inputs increased over the years and we struggled to keep yeilds increasing in line with these costs we decided to review the production model.
We decided to drop the continuous growing of winter wheat on the same ground , year after year as yields did not justify the high level of inputs required. Spring Barley was substituted as it does not need the same high level of inputs. Key to this decision was the use of beans as a green cover over the winter months prior to sowing barley in March.
Our experience of this so far has been great. The beans grew all through the winter of 2013-14 and resulted in a great canopy of green foliage but more importantly they are a nitrogen fixer. The bean plant absorbs nitrogen from the atmosphere and stores it in root nodules. So when we incorporated the green matter into the soil in spring we also had a “free” source of nitrogen which allowed us cut our artificial nitrogen requirements in half.
Are we a fan of this model of production?
So far so good , we had a super crop of spring barley with a very low input model of production. It was much more profitable than our highly intensive winter wheat model. So we have already sown our beans again for this winter and hopefully we will get as much free nitrogen.