Living Mulch Experiment
After two years of undersowing spring cereals with a soil improving yellow trefoil and white clover mixture as part of the rotation, the ‘Living Mulch’ experiment at Honeydale was designed to determine if an undersown soil improver can be left in place and direct drilled with another cash crop, rather than ploughed in.
So this year, once the cereals had been combined, the undersowing was left in place over winter, keeping the soil covered. It was grazed with sheep in spring and then direct drilled with spring oats. We were expecting the oats to germinate quickly and establish, however due to the very dry spring the established yellow trefoil and white clover mixture had access to moisture and grew back strongly while the newly sown spring oats were slow to germinate and were smothered out. We therefore had to abandon this part of the experiment and plough in the yellow trefoil and white clover and drill the oats again. We then broadcast another crop of yellow trefoil and clover and embarked on the second part of the experiment. Once the spring wheat was cut in summer 2017, the yellow trefoil and white clover were given the light and space to establish and in Autumn, when the mix was less aggressive, we direct drilled winter cereal into it and we’re waiting to see how it fares over the next few months.
We have established 3 acres as a small trial plots area and have sown it with low growing grass mixture which will be marked out with plots and pathways in the spring.
Game Cover Tests
We are using another area to test game cover mixtures for frost tolerance and winter hardiness, with different seed mixtures sown in strips across the field.
Finishing the Sainfoin
We’ve finished the season by letting the sheep graze the sainfoin for three weeks, transferring the goodness from the plant back into the soil through their manure and stopping the crop going into the autumn too tall and proud. They’ve now been moved to permanent pasture.