Use of leguminous catch crops for improving nitrogen utilisation and soil fertility

4 July 2017

ForFarmers is continuously active with new sustainability projects 

Catch crops are sown after corn cultivation, in order to reduce the leaching of minerals into groundwater to an absolute minimum and  to improve the soil structure. A catch crop will often consist of a single species like Italian ryegrass and winter rye. ForFarmers has investigated what added value leguminous plants (nitrogen binders) could represent when combined with the traditional  catch crops in a practical test.

A trial with three repetitions was set up for this purpose in the autumn of 2016 at KTC De Marke (Netherlands). This trial compared traditional catch crops (winter rye/Italian ryegrass) with mixtures of cereals and leguminous plants. The aim of this trial was to test the possibilities of these new mixtures as catch crops.

Better nitrogen utilisation and soil fertility
ForFarmers expects the combination of a catch crop with a leguminous plant to lead to improved nitrogen utilisation and better soil fertility. A catch crop will secure nutrients in place, which will prevent leaching into groundwater. A leguminous plant will start binding nitrogen from the air very early on in the spring and will therefore contribute to the catch crop’s nitrogen supply. This means the catch crop will develop more effectively, whilst the soil life is also positively stimulated. Various different destruction moments were investigated during the trial, in order to determine how the destruction moment will impact the end result. We will also establish the effect of harvesting the catch crops as forage.

Statistical review
Grass was sown after the catch crops were destroyed this spring, in order to gain an insight into the speed and amount of nitrogen supplied by mineralisation off the various catch crops (or combinations). This grass will regularly be harvested and sampled for quality and yield. A statistical review is also possible as a result of repeated execution.

ForFarmers wants to be a leader in sustainable entrepreneurship. ForFarmers wants to contribute to sustainable soil management by conducting continuous research into optimising the use of catch crops. In order to realise an economic, profitable and sustainable feed production.