BASE-UK Members farm walk by kind invitation from Ben Adams - Oxfordshire

Posted July, 10th, 2023

Ben Adams – Intercropping Visit - JULY 2023

A BASE-UK members visit and farm walk with Ben Adams in July looked at the intercropping trials he is undertaking, having received funding from the School of Sustainable Food and Farming as a winner of the Journey to Net Zero competition. 

Ben has nine trial plots across 16.5ha and is comparing two and three-way crop mixes, all of which also contain mixes of varieties, to understand more about the benefits of diversity and its role in reducing inputs. 

In addition, he is contemplating how they will fit with future SFI payments and whether they can fulfil the traditional break crop slot on his North Oxfordshire farm, helping to de-risk the rotation. 

The various combinations are either cereal/legume or brassica/legume based, with spring barley and spring oats being the chosen cereals, peas, beans and vetch being the legumes and mustard and spring oilseed rape being the brassica components. 

The plots were established in mid-April after an over-winter cover crop and Ben has been pleasantly surprised by the low weed burden – which he acknowledges may have been helped by not using any nitrogen fertiliser.  

A common disappointment across the plots has been the oilseed rape, which has struggled to get going and remains very small, especially when compared to mustard. “It has grown but the plants are tiny,” says Ben. “It may be that it needs nitrogen.”                               

Cost to Date £/ha (seed and operations) 
Plot 1:                Beans/Oats/OSR  
Plot 2:                Beans/OSR   
Plot 3:                Oats/Vetch  
Plot 4:                Beans/Oats
Plot 5:                Barley/Vetch
Plot 6:                Peas/OSR 
Plot 7:                Peas/Barley/Mustard 
Plot 8:                Peas/Mustard    
Plot 9:               Peas/Barley  

Variety Mixes:     

  • Beans – Lynx/Genghis/LG Viper 
  • Oats – Merlin/Canyon/Aspen 
  • Barley – Laureate/KWS Sassy/LG Diablo
  • Peas: Carrington/Bluetime/Aviator

Ben will update BASE-UK members on the harvest results and will continue with the work next year, taking forward the crop combinations that perform well. 

He is also optimistic about them working with the SFI – pointing out that he will be able to get payments for companion cropping, no insecticide, winter cover crops and soil assessment where they are being grown, with future funding coming from forthcoming no-till and precision farming actions.

Thanks to Louise Impey for this article.