In this field lab three farms will explore the impact of grazing sheep on over-winter cover crops on soil properties and crop performance. They will also record management practices of livestock within an arable rotation, as well as 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.
This farmer-managed replicated trial design will be located at three sites - one hub site plus two 'satellite' sites.
Three treatments will be carried out at each site:
1) Cover crop grazed
2) Cover crop not grazed
Data collection at the satellite sites will be done by the farmers: species composition and biomass of cover crops (the same mix will be planted); cover crop utilisation (how much is trampled into the ground or not palatable); yield. In addition management records and diaries will be kept by the farmers to allow a cost-benefit analysis of the practice.
At the hub site, additional soil measurements will be taken by the researchers.
Both the hub site (Norfolk) and satellite site 2 remained involved throughout the trials. The trials compared areas of ungrazed cover crop with areas of grazed cover crop or stubble.
Interim results show a positive story for the grazed cover crop - that there was no obvious detrimental effect from grazing:
The ADAS researcher is working through final harvest data at both sites. Ideally, the yield maps would correlate with the results on better N uptake in the following cash crop. At satellite site 2, there was a slightly higher yield in the following arable crop in the area cover crop treatments (with grazed cover crop areas showing the highest yields) vs those without cover crops.
The group believe that the lack of a detrimental effect on soil structure from grazing the cover crops was down to good grazing management (i.e. stocking densities, avoiding stocking in particularly wet conditions).
Cover crops (mix of mustard, vetch, phacelia, winter oats and stubble turnips) have established at all the farms.
15th August 2020
30th September 2020
15th February 2021
15th August 2021
30th September 2021
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain to help the industry succeed in a rapidly changing world. We want to create a world-class food and farming industry, inspired by and competing with the best.