The evaluation of groundbreaking companion cropping trials, aimed at conserving the environment while improving land productivity, have been revealed at Reaseheath College in Cheshire.

The trials, being held for the first time in the UK, have been run in partnership with machine manufacturer Pottinger, agronomy company Agrovista and seed companies DLF, Germinal and Pioneer. The aim is to find the most viable companion crop, suitable for UK growing conditions, which will establish and maintain quality maize forage while responding to potential legislation.

Twelve plots of different varieties of grass, clover, vetch, peas and other legumes were sown under early maturing maize. The growth and vigour of the companion crop were then evaluated by Agrovista agronomists, who presented their findings to an audience of industry professionals at an on-farm demonstration event on Tuesday.

Tall fescue ‘Kora’ was the clear winner of this initial trial, showing excellent rooting structure and growth plus the ability to establish under dry conditions and remain hardy under winter conditions.

The trials will be repeated and re-evaluated next year.

Agrovista’s John Ball told visitors, who included agricultural journalists and representatives from the Maize Association and British Grassland Society: “Cover crops are going to become regulation. Leaving soil bare under maize is not going to be an option for us in future. We have to do something to prevent soil erosion and nutrient loss while still getting the best yield.”

Undersowing grass and legumes under maize is a widespread practice in Europe, where farmers on comparatively small mixed units use the system to keep within environmental regulations and avoid being left with unproductive maize stubble.

To enable the simultaneous planting of maize and grass, Pottinger used its award winning Pottinger Aerosem 3002 ADD drill which features a Precision Combi Seeding (PCS) system combining a precision maize drill and a conventional pneumatic seed drill on the same unit.

Reaseheath agriculture undergraduate Robert Yardley made the initial links with Pottinger at Agritechnica last November while he was at the show on a scholarship from the Oxford Farming Conference.

  •  Pottinger UK is the wholly owned subsidary of  Austrian family-owned manufacturer Pottinger Landtechnik Gmbh. The company manufactures a comprehensive range of innovative grassland, tillage and seeding machinery.

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  •  Agrovista is a leading supplier of agronomy advice, crop protection products and precision farming services.

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  • Reaseheath College is one of the UK’s premier land based colleges. A current £30 million investment into technical and training resources includes a £6million centre for advanced agricultural technology and engineering in partnership with major agricultural companies

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