The big cover-up


24 September 2020
The big cover-up

LOOKING again at using cover crops to build soil structure and mitigate the effects of increasing weather extremes could reap benefits for farmers in Scotland, it has been claimed.

Zach Reilly of SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), is working with the Scottish Government-funded Farming for a Better Climate Soil Regenerative Agriculture Group. As facilitator of the three-year regenerative project, he said many growers in Scotland have been put off by the expense or extra work of establishing cover crops, combined with a short, often wet, weather window for it to gain ground. However, in recent months SAC Consulting has received a lot of enquiries from those reconsidering it.

“We are increasingly seeing extreme weather patterns which can challenge crop growth as well as milder wetter winters and the pests and weed species that come with this. Cover cropping builds resilience in the soil to cope with extremes and, over time, improves the chances of the crops that follow. Although growing cover crops will never be completely free, focusing on the benefits and driving down the costs can provide good justification for implementing it.” 

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Five farmers are involved in the regeneration group, all growing different crops, and one of the five is Hugh Black, who farms in partnership with his father James at J & R Black at Carmyllie. They grow potatoes along with spring barley, winter barley, winter wheat, and oil seed rape.

For more details, and to read this feature in full, see the November issue of Potato Review. If you are not already subscribing, visit