High N prices raise profile of dwarf clover at Overbury Farms


With nitrogen fertiliser costing within the area of £1,000/t, Farmers Weekly 2021 Environmental Champion Jake Freestone is planning to extend his dwarf white clover understory acreage.

This dwelling mulch cuts bought-in liquid fertiliser use, improves soil construction and suppresses weeds in wheat crops at Overbury Enterprisesin Gloucestershire.

The clover is grown in place of cowl crops and can stay for the entire six-year rotation, so additionally decreasing institution prices total.

Clover was initially grown on 27ha, about 10% of the wheat space, beginning in 2021, when it was drilled in three fields the place quinoa had failed after 25 days of frost in April 2021.

See additionally: Farmers Weekly Awards – 2021 Environmental Champion

Farm info

  • 1,600ha of in-hand land, of which 870ha combinable crops, the rest grass and stewardship, plus 250ha contract-farmed for neighbour
  • Milling wheat, OSR, peas, beans, linseed, quinoa and malting barley
  • 850 outdoor-lambing flock, small pedigree Dorset flock
  • Higher Tier stewardship began January 2021
  • Leaf demonstration farm since 2012 and an Agri-EPI satellite tv for pc farm for internet hosting agri-tech analysis

“It’s not a one-crop wonder, as it’s quite expensive to establish,” says Jake. “The seed cost £7/kg last year and this year it’s gone up to £8.50/kg.”

The mix cutter bar is ready at about 25cm, maintaining it above the clover.

“Once you’ve combined, you have an instant high-protein cover crop for finishing lambs or conditioning ewes after weaning.”

It has been trial and error to find out which sheep the clover fits finest. Romneys went on first final autumn, however acquired too fats on it.

However, it did an awesome job of enhancing the situation of North Country Mules forward of tupping.

“We had a back run of hay available to the sheep so that they were introduced slowly to the clover, but once they got in the second field, they didn’t touch the hay,” says Jake.

Jake Freestone in field

Jake Freestone © Richard Stanton

KWS Champion feed wheat was drilled into the clover on 4 October, with a light-weight dose of glyphosate earlier than drilling, to examine the clover and shock it into releasing a bit of N for the wheat.

The clover seed value £68/ha (at 8kg/ha), and delivered 50kg of N at £3/kg on present fertiliser pricing.

A soil mineral N take a look at on the clover fields on 20 January revealed 146kg of N within the soil, 30kg within the crops and 47kg of extra obtainable nitrogen, to present a soil nitrogen provide (SNS) of 223kg/ha.

“It’s a query now of how a lot we give the crop and when – how a lot of the SNS will likely be within the soil profile. Some of it’s 30-90cm down, so will not be available, and the potential nitrogen obtainable relies upon very a lot on the season.

So, if we assume half the SNS is accessible, we’ll apply one other 50-60kg.

Because the clover is alive yr spherical, it has an awesome potential useful impact on the soil construction.

Downsides, relying on the season, can embrace the danger that it’ll compete with the wheat for vitamins and moisture.

“We can shave again on fungicides for the wheat as a result of of the improved soil well being; it will get no insecticide anyway.

You have to observe molybdenum and cobalt ranges, that are vital for the rising clover nodules,” says Jake.

Grazing wheat trial

He experimented with sheep grazing ahead wheat crops for the primary time this winter.

The farm’s personal flock had a lot of grazing, so a neighbour’s sheep had been hosted on a crop of Graham wheat at 60p a head every week.

This supplied 600 grazing days/ha, with 314 head on 3.5ha of wheat.

“We got good regrowth and probably could have grazed it a bit more. We get better-rooting crops and the sheep eat off old and diseased material, which helps reduce disease potential and there’s a bit of nitrogen recycling through the sheep muck.”

Fertiliser technique

Fertiliser technique is below fixed evaluation, however the value hikes and provide points of the previous six months have put an extra concentrate on this.

Jake purchased all of his 2022 necessities in final July and is now contemplating decreasing the speed from 170kg/ha to be able to carry over some shares into the 2023 crop season. 


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