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