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John Joseph

Trecorras Farm, Ross-on-Wye

In an area where soil erosion has been a serious issue, John Joseph has resorted to a strip tillage system in order to regain the integrity of the soil and to build soil condition.

Since implementing the change, Mr Joseph has noticed an increase in worm populations, better water retention and improved soil structure. Less cultivation has also led to an annual saving of £16,000 (£115/ha).

Having remained constant for two years following the conversion, yields are now rising with wheat reaching 12t/ha and barley 9.5t/ha.

Yields have been further improved by minimising field traffic and by sowing crops at wider row widths. This has had the biggest impact in OSR where yields are pushing towards 6t/ha.

When it comes to nitrogen usage, Mr Joseph adopts the ‘little and often’ approach, applying only 40kg of nitrogen in any one application. He believes this not only allows for big yields, but helps protect the soil flora and fauna.

Companion planting

On the whole, nitrogen usage has been reduced thanks to the use of strip tillage which has encourages the soil to better recycle its own nutrients.

Tack sheep are brought in to graze cover crops, which are grown extensively across the farm. The sheep provide a source of income and help turn the cover crop into a manure, adding nutritive value to the soil.

As well as sowing cover crops over winter, he also sows cover crops between harvest and autumn drilling in order to capture valuable sunlight and to provide a biofumigation affect to deter slugs.

John is also investigating the use of companion planting, such as sowing clover under herbage seeds and oilseeds, and is considering growing garlic between OSR rows to protect against flea beetle.