Agronomists ProCam are advocating the planting of no-till potatoes to aid in organic soil improvement

Agronomists ProCam are advocating the planting of no-till potatoes to aid in organic soil improvement

No-till potatoes grown under a straw mulch could help farmers to restore degraded arable soils cost-effectively, according to agronomists ProCam.

The company said one of the biggest challenges facing farmers was to make soils more resilient by building soil organic matter levels in a way that is practical and financially viable.

Presenting results from a four-year trial at the Groundswell conservation agriculture event, ProCam said revenue from the potatoes would offset the cost of importing straw, creating a viable route to more sustainable production.

ProCam agronomist Richard Harding said the method employed was to first step grow a high-biomass cover crop.

Then potato tubers were placed on the surface and a mulch created by unrolling and fluffing up round bale straw at a rate of 34 tonnes per hectare.

“Through this method,” Richard said, “we achieved a potato crop of 46t/ha of saleable tubers, so about 75 per cent of a normal crop yield, but without the high cost of conventional cultivations.”

Following the potatoes, the ground was strip tilled and wide-row crops established, such as maize or pumpkins, using a drill with row cleaners to overcome the remaining straw residues.

From this proof-of-principle study, ProCam believes there is enough evidence to now look at commercialisation of the methodology.

To adopt this method, take a look at: www.procam.co.uk

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