It might be tempting to leave undrilled fields fallow this spring so as to keep crop rotations on track, but a financially better option is to sow a nitrogen-fixing break crop of red and crimson clover and gain from free fertiliser, improved soil structure and a good cut of high protein forage, says Limagrain UK’s Ian Misselbrook.
With autumn drillings postponed due to bad weather, and with spring cereal seed in short supply, farmers have two options for arable fields: to wait until autumn and then drill as usual, or to sow an alternative spring crop. But to ensure drilling is not delayed again, careful choice of a spring crop is needed. A grass and red clover mixture could be the answer. Ian takes up the story.
“These days there is no financial value in leaving a field fallow – instead, the ground and soil content can be improved by establishing a short term red clover ley. This will not only ensure a better supply of soil nitrogen for the next crop, but will also help to alleviate soil compaction and add to the soil structure. It also produces a crop of forage to feed or sell.
“A red clover ley can release between 100 and 250kg of nitrogen per hectare into the soil when the plants die or are ploughed in. Conventional red clover is more suitable for leys lasting over a year. However, another clover type – crimson clover, also known as Italian or French clover – is an annual species, and capable of very high yields of dry matter in a short time.”
Crimson clover can be found in Crimson King, from the Sinclair McGill range of grass seed mixtures. Also included in the mixture, is a blend of conventional red clover varieties along with fast-establishing, quick-growing Westerwolds ryegrass and Italian ryegrasses.
“Crimson King makes an ideal break crop for farmers wanting to keep autumn drilling on schedule. If sown by early May, Crimson King is capable of delivering a good single cut of high protein hay or silage in late summer. The crop can then be ploughed in allowing the roots of the red and crimson clover plants to release nitrogen to the soil, and the plant material to add structure,” he concluded.
There is more information on this innovative mixture in the current Sinclair McGill catalogue – e-mail us and we can post you a hard copy or, alternatively, click here to download the the user-friendly pdf format.