Alternatives to Glyphosate to Terminate Cover Crops

Innovative Farmers Look for Alternatives to Glyphosate to Terminate Cover Crops

Anglia Farmers are running a new field lab through the Innovative Farmers network, investigating alternative ways to terminate cover crops.

Many farmers rely on the chemical herbicide glyphosate to destroy unwanted crops at certain points within the crop rotation, but with uncertainty over its future availability there is a desire to find new methods. These Innovative Farmers are getting ahead of the curve and finding new ways to establish a successful minimum tillage system without the use of chemical sprays.

For organic farmers, finding ways to reduce their reliance on ploughing will help to enhance soil health further and potentially reduce overall use of fossil fuels for successful crop establishment.

Lara Clabburn, Anglia Farmers Group Coordinator said; “This field lab is very exciting as it unites all farmers in finding better ways to cultivate soil, establish crops, maintain or improve soil structure and ultimately increase profit margin. It is already catalysing new ideas for cover crop destruction and preparation for crop establishment.

The aim is to find and develop new tools which will help us to reduce our reliance on glyphosate.” Already several organic farmers have joined the group and the field lab is expected to attract attention from both organic farmers looking to do more minimum or no tillage, and conventional farmers wishing to reduce their reliance on glyphosate.

One of the participants of the field lab group is Andrew Woof who is a member of Organic Arable and farms 500 acres of organic, mostly arable land at Weston Farm in Oxfordshire. After reading about work in Japan and the US, he plans to use a roller crimper to turn his cover crop into a weed supressing and nutrient providing mass of stems. He can then drill directly through it, meaning no plough, and minimum compaction.

Andrew said; “I started looking for a way that I could improve my soil by enriching it with biomass and keeping soil disturbance to a minimum – So reducing compaction and preventing nutrient mineralisation. “Joining Innovative Farmers gave me the inspiration to start thinking of things from a different angle. I hope that, through the field lab with Anglia Farmers, we might be able to find some conclusive
evidence for using minimum tillage in soil management, resulting in carbon capture through increased organic matter and so an improved bottom line.’’ As well as trialling Andrew’s suggestion of a roller crimper, the group will look at other techniques to reduce the use of glyphosate and help reduce input costs.

The network has a range of supporters, bringing significant knowledge and experience to the field lab. Research partners of Innovative Farmers include: ADAS; Duchy College; the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience at Coventry University; the Food Security & Land Research Alliance; IBERS; Harper Adams University; Rothamsted Research; and the University of Bristol. Innovative Farmers is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The network is backed by a team from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association, and supported by Waitrose