An Innovative Farmer field lab has seen hop growers challenging the traditional practice of leaving soils bare and open all year focusing instead on the benefits of growing cover crops in the fallow season after the hops have been harvested – with positive results.
The traditional approach to hop growing was established as the best way to avoid verticillium wilt, an old but devastating disease that has been responsible for wiping out hundreds of farms in the UK – but it does nothing to improve soil stability, fertility or prevent erosion. The field trials have explored the benefits for overall soil health of introducing cover crops and researched the best approach to timing and seed mixes, and the best ways to terminate the cover crop ready for planting new hops.
Planting cover crops is especially important as the entire hop plant is removed from the field in harvest, so organic matters is not returned to the soil as part of a normal cropping cycle.
The farm walk is open to all and a chance to hear from experienced hop grower Tom Berry and agronomist Rob Saunders, who will share their practical experience of growing these covers and the impact they have had in real conditions.
Some participants have also gained an understanding on managing cover crops in top fruit production as well as hops. So, there will be an opportunity to find out about the impact of cover crops beyond the hops industry.
The walk will take place on Wednesday 27 April at 12.30pm at Brenley Farm, Faversham, Kent, courtesy of Mr Tom Berry. You can sign up at the following link
This is the latest field lab trial in Innovative Farmers’ 10th anniversary year, where the programme is celebrating the achievements from a decade of enabling farmer-led research.
The triallists join the 12,000 UK farmers that the Innovative Farmers has connected with since 2012, spanning across more than 120 field labs that have placed farmers in the driving seat of agricultural research.