Interested in Intercropping?
Get involved in our ‘plant teams’ field lab
Soil Association Scotland has joined with the James Hutton Institute on a field lab to explore the potential that growing different crops together has to increase yield, reduce inputs, tackle pests and improve soil health in Scotland.
The first meeting on October 23 in Leven included a visit to 500-hectare arable Durie Farm, where Doug Christie has been successfully growing plant teams for several years.
Picture: arable farmer Doug Christie
Christie says “I started five or six years ago to get more diversity in the crops I grow, partly for benefits you can see, like soil health and cutting back on input costs.
“I’ve grown spring oil seed rape and peas together, for example, vetch and spring oil seed rape, and beans and oats.
“It’s drastically cut my input costs – I’ve hardly needed to spray those fields at all with fungicides or herbicides and I don’t need nitrogen fertiliser. I’ve had no pests on my oil seed rape – no pollen beetle damage or flea beetle – so I’ve used no insecticides. In terms of yield it’s hard to say but I’ve had less from my beans on their own than the beans and oats together.
“I’m also interested in sustainable farming, and there are wider benefits like carbon sequestration and biodiversity.”
Picture: Dr Ali Karley at the James Hutton Institute's research farm at Balruddery
James Hutton Institute researchers Ali Karley, Adrien Newton and Carolyn Mitchell were at the field lab meeting, alongside SRUC’s Robin Walker, all of whom are working on EU projects – DIVERSify and ReMIX – to make consistent advice and tools available for farmers wanting to adopt plant teams.
“Growing different crop species together is not a novel idea,” says Karley. “But there’s not enough information out there about what varieties people should use and for what purpose. For example, which cereal/legume mix for forage or silage? What if I want really high protein? And what would be right for local soil conditions?”
Initial findings and tools from DIVERSify to help answer these questions were presented at the field lab and will be added to this page shortly.
About the field lab
We are asking participating farmers and land managers to trial a plant team (e.g. peas and barley), compare it to a nearby monoculture and share basic crop performance data.
Taking part in this field lab will give you access to knowledge from plant teams research projects at the James Hutton Institute, funded by the Scottish Government, and the Horizon 2020-funded DIVERSify project. It will also link to SRUC research into intercropping and the EU-ReMIX project.
To find out more contact:
Clem Sandison, Farming & Land Use Manager, Soil Association Scotland
firstname.lastname@example.org / 0131 666 2474