Finding a fix for fertility building
The development of a complex legume based mixture for better fertility building is to become a reality in a new project, led by the Organic Research Centre, Elm Farm. The mixture will be designed to optimise the transfer of nitrogen from the fertility building ley to the subsequent crops in the rotation.
A successful fertility building crop is vital for a profitable rotation. This nitrogen fixation is commonly achieved by mixtures of rye grass and clover, but these simple mixtures can fail, particularly under dry conditions.
Stability of establishment, nitrogen fixation and biomass production are all essential characteristics of the ley phase, providing weed control, fertility building and forage. In addition to these requirements, a ley must be resilient to different soil conditions between and within fields, increasingly variable weather, and pest and disease.
Improvements in fertility building crops can be achieved by creating a complex mixture of complementary species. Species which prefer, for example, either wet or dry conditions, and are deep rooting or shallow rooting can be mixed to improve the use of available resources and reduce the variability in ley performance.