Green cover proves headland attraction

Green cover headlands sown on potato and root vegetable crop headlands is proving a positive attraction for pollinators, and helping to conserve valuable soil resources.

Successful results from a 2016 pilot project of the Syngenta Operation Pollinator initiative, instigated and supported exclusively by ASDA growers through the IPL supply chain, now aims to plant up over 100 hectares of the specially selected Green Headland cover mix on more than 30 farms for the coming season.

Belinda Bailey, Syngenta Environmental Initiatives Manager, highlighted that potato and root vegetable headlands are typically left uncropped, to aid management and harvesting of the cropped field area. However, these bare soil areas are left dangerously exposed to soil erosion or damage by headland-turning of heavy machinery, can become a weed burden and have little or no ecological value.

“The partnership with ASDA and IPL has worked with Kings to create a specific Green Headland seed mix designed to be easily established with the crop, protect the soil structure and provide a valuable feeding and habitat resource for invertebrates and other farmland biodiversity,” she reported.

“We are now looking to extend its use on more farms, and to continue monitoring both the ecological enhancement and the physical improvements to soils that the Green Headland offers,” added Belinda.

Adrian Baker, Farm Manager at F B Parrish & Son, based at Lodge Farm, Chicksands in Bedfordshire, reported one of the benefits of the cover crop used this year was how easy it was to establish. “Soil protection is vitally important on our light greensands, with measures such as a CTF (Controlled Traffic Farming) system on the fields.

“The cover crop was simply direct drilled on the headlands, and got away and grew without us spending too much time. We also noted that the green cover was effective in reducing the risk of soil erosion during potato and onion crop irrigation.”

Adrian was rewarded with 46 different species found on the farm’s four trial Green Headland areas, and he also reported the fantastic public feedback on the colour and flowering of the mix, where a footpath crossed a cover crop field.

IPL suppliers for ASDA who would be interested to get involved with the Green Headland initiative and trial should contact the company’s Senior Agronomist, Simon Taylor.