Could the integration of grass/herbal leys into arable rotations benefit both arable and livestock farming systems? Continuous arable cropping with annual cultivations with little or no inputs of organic materials can lead to reductions in soil organic matter content, an essential component for maintaining soil quality and fertility. Improvements to soil organic matter is known to increase moisture retention and nutrient turnover, improve soil structure and reduce erosion risk.
Results recently announced following an AHDB Beef and Lamb funded study has shown that temporary grass leys have the potential to increase the organic matter content in arable soils by reducing the frequency of cultivations and increasing the return of organic material in the form of roots and litter. In autumn 2017, six long term arable fields at Norwood Farm in Somerset were sown with grass, clover and herbal leys mixes. Detailed baseline soil assessments including soil nutrients, organic matter content, respiration, worm counts and visual soil assessments, were all carried out in these fields in autumn 2017 and were repeated after three years in autumn 2020. Soil organic matter was found to have increased by 0.3 percentage points, equivalent to 6 t/ha organic matter. Earthworm numbers also increased by 60% over the three year ley.
Join ADAS and AHDB in Somerset to learn more
If you would like to find out more about this project and the benefits of integrating livestock into arable rotations, you can join ADAS and AHDB for an on-farm free event hosted by Dyson Farming at Norwood Farm in Somerset on 23rd September. Financial considerations and the practicalities of integrating livestock into an arable system will also be covered on the day.
For more information and to register, please visit the AHDB website – https://ahdb.org.uk/events/the-benefits-of-integrating-livestock-into-arable-rotations