Farmers are being encouraged to harness the full potential of cover crops by ensuring they are fully incorporated into soils this spring.

Adam Bartowski, eastern regional product manager at Timac Agro UK, said by doing so, soils will be more resilient to drought conditions during an anticipated dry spring.

He says cover crops come into their own in the lead up to drilling, having supported a strong soil structure over winter and protecting the valuable reserves of key nutrients.

Incorporating them into the soil’s organic matter is an essential next step to help create a crumbly, well aggregated soil structure ahead of drilling.

He said: “Improved structure allows better movement of air and water in the soil, as well as increasing its ability to retain moisture and nutrients going forward.

“By binding the soil particles together, its vulnerability to erosion and leaching from wind and rainfall is reduced, which is especially beneficial before the main crop emerges.”

Mr Bartowski recommends having livestock graze off cover crops as they will directly incorporate manure into the soil.

“Once livestock have eaten what they want, growers can look to add a soil conditioner to help break down the woody, stemmy vegetation that’s left behind and avoid tying up nitrogen,” he said.

He also advocates soil testing and to seek advice from an agronomic advisor who can clarify the soil analysis results.

“Look beyond your soil pH – the wet winter has likely left many soils deficient in sodium, sulphur and calcium due to leaching, which will reduce the crop responsiveness to fertilisers and affect yield.

“A soil conditioner, like Humistart+, that contains both bacterial and fungal feeds, with trace-element-rich marine calcium will speed the break down of organic matter, often removing the need for an additional nitrogen application,” Mr Bartowski says.

If farmyard manure (FYM) is spread, a soil conditioner can also help to fully incorporate it with the soil to see maximum benefits.

“Organic matter with high carbon to nitrogen ratios (C:N), such as straw and sawdust, require more available nitrogen for microbes to break them down, temporarily restricting nitrogen access for plants.

“Boosting microbial activity with a soil conditioner can remove this deficit, increasing nitrogen availability by as much as 38% for the following crop, while stimulating early rooting through phosphate release.”