Support measures for cover crops (stewardship)

The financial benefits of cover crops may not be apparent during the growing period. However, the economics of using them should be considered across the rotation. Stewardship schemes may also offer rewards and incentives for growing cover crops.

Financial benefit

The direct financial benefit of growing cover crops is most easily assessed through yield.

However, improvements might not be detected until later in the rotation.

In particular, yield increases have been recorded following legume cover crops or mixes containing legumes.

Repeated cycles of cover crops may be required to fully exploit potential benefits.

The costs of cover crop seed, additional cultivations, and crop management need to be taken into account in any cost:benefit analysis.

Grazing covers

Grazing cover crops will maximise the return from the land by providing the opportunity to increase livestock numbers or receive an additional income stream from renting out the land to graziers.

Stewardship schemes

Cover crops are included in some stewardship schemes, for example, Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier option SW6: Winter cover crops, and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) actions for soils.

When using cover crops as part of a scheme, follow the specified recommendations and practices.

Some local water authorities also provide cover crop schemes to reduce nitrate leaching.

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