Paul Martinson farms 380 hectares at Yokefleet, Goole.
Soils range from blow away sand to heavy clays and the rotation includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape and vining peas, with more spring crops this year.
Vining peas have been grown on the farm since 1969. Mr Martinson has been growing peas for Birds Eye since the mid- 1990s. Peas are grown within a 30-mile radius of the Birds Eye factory and from harvesting to freezing takes only 2.5 hours.
Drilling of peas began in April and finished on June 10 this year, with harvesting of the earliest drilled crops starting on June 18.
Mr Martinson says: “Yields have been good – we averaged 4.7t/ha.”
The Sustainable Landscapes Humber Project involves 40 growers, all members of the Green Pea company, explains Mr Rhodes.
“Half of the growers are growing a cover crop after peas and before wheat, and half will grow the cover crop after wheat or barley and before peas.
“The aim is to improve soil organic matter and workability, help deal with soil-borne pests and diseases and help prevent flooding by increasing soil’s water absorption capacity.”
For the trial, Mr Martinson planned to grow one cover crop before peas and one after.
However, he did not have time to sow his post pea cover crop due the weather delaying the pea harvest, meaning there would have been insufficient time for
the cover crop to mature before preparation for the following wheat crop to be planted.
For the pre-pea cover crop, Mr Martinson has drilled a cover crop of oats and phacelia.
It will be allowed to mature in the next few months, improving soil condition until he starts the preparation for drilling peas next year.
The amount of above ground biomass created by the cover crop at its peak will be measured, says Mr Rhodes.
“We will take samples and Lancrop Laboratories is measuring nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and dry matter content. From what is above ground we can calculate the below ground biomass and work out how much carbon is sequestered and what levels of nutrients are captured.
“From total carbon we can work out soil organic matter level and come to a value in terms of the amount of carbon sequestered and the value of the nutrients captured. As they break down, they are available to the next crop which can reduce the nitrogen bill and carbon footprint. Nitrogen requirement of wheat is 70% of the carbon footprint for the crop.”
Improving soil organic matter increases the workability of soil, enables it to hold water when it rains and helps boost water availability if there is a dry spring, says Mr Rhodes.
Mr Martinson is looking forward to getting hard data on the impact of cover crops.
He says: “Cover crops are in vogue, but getting real data back to see the benefit – that’s the attraction.”
He has already been taking steps to improve soil organic matter content on-farm.
“We went out of beef in 2001 and have recently gone back in as soil was lacking in farmyard manure.”
Improving soil organic matter by 1% means it can hold 200,000 litres/ha more water, says Mr Rhodes. This could make a contribution to reducing flooding in Hull, where the River Humber flooded in 2013.