Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Buckwheat Cover Crop

Buckwheat Emerging After Peas
We tried a single species cover crop this year in a very quick slot after the hand picked peas up on the hill on those fields that we harvested early enough.  The Buckwheat was planted right behind the pea pickers and rapidly covered the  ground.  The idea was for these roots to start to undo some of the damage to the soil caused by the heavy traffic (tractors and trailers) during the harvest.  The crop grew for 8 weeks and was really flowering well (below top left), almost too well and we are finding a few seedlings in the following wheat crop, which isn't causing me too many alarms.  Buckwheat will die when temperatures get to below 5 degrees. The bottom picture shows the Cross Slot opener (seed placement bit) actually planting the seeds and the third picture (top right) shows what the field looked like after the drill had passed over the field.
Cross Slot Drilling into Buckwheat Covercrop
It certainly looks very different to a conventional field, without the green lines on a brown background but to me this is how mother nature plants her seed, no cultivation just the seeds working into the ground.  It really is a case of retraining the mind to actually appreciate what is happening in the field.   The residue of the peas and the buckwheat is spread on the soil surface with the seedlings making their way up through to the light.  By next harvest all of that residue will have been returned to the soil by the worms and the weather, recycling the nutrients locked up within it.  Where the system really benefits the wider environment in in terms of carbon capture.  Without cultivating the soil the carbon retained within it, in the form of organic matter, stays in the soil, it is not oxidised and released to the atmosphere. So the soil is not being depleted and the dead plant material is slowly being turned into organic matter and then humus.  But it will take a long time!    
Wheat Emerging through Buckwheat Covercrop
Wheat after cover crops have all emerged really well this year which is always a great relief!

3 comments:

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Vici Uax said...

Excellent article on how farming can be found in a good way to fertilize the land, due to residues from the buckwheat and peas, let it and long processes, but the nutrients coming into the earth. But it is worth noting that none of farming is not without galvanized bucket.

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