The start of the year was an opportunity to discuss how the anaerobic digestate (AD) trials are progressing.
How will soil regeneration compare between the different treatments?
Robin Upton and Nick Sheppard discussed their trial set up for the second year. It is slightly different to other trials in the group. The cover crop (CC) mix will be drilled in the Spring, in a field that is being restored to a suitable soil structure and biology following gravel extraction.
It will be really interesting to see how digestate in the presence or absence of cover crops affects the nutrient content and biology of a soil that needs boosting before going into full cropping.
Balancing trials with the day job
Managing trials while also running a farming business can prove challenging and this was particularly the case this summer. With the drought, maize was maturing really quickly so harvesters and trailers were being pushed to their limit. As a result, it wasn’t always possible to harvest smaller trial plots, which usually require more time and logistics in place.
During the meeting, farmers and researchers drew up a protocol that makes harvesting smaller trial plots more practical and easier to integrate in farmers’ busy schedule, ready for harvest 2019
Impact on beneficial fungi
Finally, George Crane, a PhD student at NIAB and the University of Cambridge updated the group on the research work he has undertaken with the farmers. George is investigating the impact of cover crop cultivation on the growth of beneficial Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF).
The trials have demonstrated that digestate decreased AMF colonisation of cover crops, however this was inconsistent between AMF species and trial sites.
Watch this space for more results later in the year!