Investigating glyphosate alternatives to terminate cover crops is the objective of a new field lab being run by Anglia Farmers through the Innovative Farmers network.
Lara Clabburn, Anglia Farmers group coordinator, said: “This field lab is very exciting as it unites all farmers in finding better ways to cultivate soil, establish crops, maintain or improve soil structure and ultimately increase profit margin.
“It is already catalysing new ideas for cover crop destruction and preparation for crop establishment. The aim is to find and develop new tools which will help us to reduce our reliance on glyphosate.”
Several organic farmers have joined the group and the field lab is expected to attract attention from both organic farmers looking to do more minimum or no tillage and conventional farmers wishing to reduce their reliance on glyphosate.
One participant is Andrew Woof, a member of Organic Arable, who farms 200ha (500 acres) of organic, mostly arable land at Weston Farm in Oxfordshire.
After reading about work in Japan and the US, he plans to use a roller crimper to turn his cover crop into a weed supressing and nutrient providing mass of stems. He said he can then drill directly through it, meaning no plough and minimum compaction.
“I started looking for a way that I could improve my soil by enriching it with biomass and keeping soil disturbance to a minimum – so reducing compaction and preventing nutrient mineralisation.
“Joining Innovative Farmers gave me the inspiration to start thinking of things from a different angle. I hope that, through the field lab with Anglia Farmers, we might be able to find some conclusive evidence for using minimum tillage in soil management, resulting in carbon capture through increased organic matter and so an improved bottom line,” says Mr Woof.
As well as trialling a roller crimper, the group will look at other techniques to reduce glyphosate use and help reduce input costs.
There will be a meeting on November 2 at Shimpling Park Farms in Suffolk, for those wishing to find out more or get involved. It will include lunch and a farm walk. For more details email firstname.lastname@example.org