Take Cover from the Crops
In agriculture, cover crops are plants that are planted to cover the soil rather than for the purpose of being harvested. Cover crops manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem—an ecological system managed and shaped by humans. This is the dictionary definition and I hope to explain a bit further what they are and how we use them on our farm.
We have planted a cover crop in place of our failed oilseed rape crops in some of our fields. Many of you will remember during the lockdown I posted photos of what should have been flourishing crops, but they were sadly droughted off, as were many of our crops during the longest ever drought known in this area. It was too late to plant the same crop again so Chris decided on this specific mixture of cover crop and planted this to put nutrients back into the soil and help the bees (he is an avid fan of bees) and butterflies until this crop will be mulched onto the surface and a new crop of Winter wheat can be sown in September. This seems to be flourishing and Walter and Frank really enjoy chasing through it, although the seed removal from Walter’s hair has become a fulltime job when he gets back into the house.
Cover crops have also been used for millennia, all over the world, and were used long before there was even the option of using artificial fertilizers. Thankfully, with many farmers (including ourselves) thinking less about yield and more about our small ecosystems to help the world they’re being used more readily. It’s a definite win-win scenario for the fact that we are helping the planet and haven’t completely lost the use of the failed fields for the whole growing season – plus, who doesn’t love bees?
This lovely crop is a mixture of yellow and brown mustard, oilseed rape, yellow millet, linseed and phacelia. The plants looks amazing in the field, and even though its only for a short while the bees and butterflies are having a wonderful summer with no pesticides or artificial fertilisers, plus the nitrogen from these plants will be returned to the soil and hopefully reduce our need for fertilisers when the next crop is planted. We really are ecologically aware on our farm and I think that people need to be more aware of what we do to work with nature and reduce our carbon footprint and usage of artificial fertilisers where possible. We have used the idea of cover crops before on specific fields but as this one is nearer to the house; I’ve taken a special interest as I walk in and around it each and every day.
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