Eagle Labs Soil Health webinar examines cover crops

The third and final Barclays Eagle Labs webinar on Soil Health took place, appropriately, on June 3rd.

The topic was “Cover crops and the Healthy soil effect.” and the two speakers were Paul Brown of Kings Crops, a seed company which is part of Frontier and Prof. Jack Hannam of Cranfield University.

According to Paul, the seed sales for cover crops have increased 20% every year for the past 5 years. Some of this has been driven by environmental payments to farmers, which have been aimed at having cover crops protecting soil and providing bird-feeding opportunities over winter. There has also been an increase in min-till cultivations with newer machinery able to sow cereal crops directly into the cover crops.

Farmers are learning the appropriate techniques very quickly. Cover crops can also fit into IPM programmes and have been used to reduce nematode activity and suppress blackgrass. It is possible that the introduction of the ELMS (Environmental Land Management Scheme) in 2024 will encourage further uptake of cover crops.

Professor Hannam looked at the features that define “Soil Health” and how land management can influence that.

A recent survey of farmers (one of the first to look at cover crops) found that around 75% of farmers believed cover crops had a positive effect on soil structure and reduced soil erosion, 60% noted improved earthworm numbers and drainage, and half noted the improved workability of the soil. Cranfield had also undertaken studies on soil structure using the CHAP/AgriEpi soil health facility and examples of the work were shown. Prof. Hannam also gave some practical advice for farmers wanting to start growing cover crops and improve soil health across their farms.

The webinar blended practical advice and academic work to provide a solid introduction to the topic.

If you missed the live event, you can catch-up by watching the webinar on YouTube.

For more information about what CHAP is doing to promote Soil Health visit our Soil Health Solutions and the Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility pages.

If you have any questions about working with CHAP, please send us an email using the enquiries form at the bottom of our homepage.