Match funding and free advice is being offered to growers drilling cover crops across the Midlands from the Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS).
Up to £175/ha is available to match fund seed purchases, as well as support from the water company’s team of agricultural advisers, on-farm soil testing and at-home webinar advice – free-of-charge.
Dr Alex Cooke, principal catchment management scientist at Severn Trent, explained: “In the last round of STEPS grants, we funded over 5,500 ha of cover crops, which are vital tools in building healthy soils on-farm and improving water quality.
“We always encourage farmers to speak to their local agricultural adviser before applying for any match funded STEPS options. The team is on-hand to discuss the most suitable cover crop options for your farm and recommend which mixes offer the most value for soil health and future field productivity. Having this information from your adviser will also improve the likelihood of your application being successful.
“We can even offer fully funded Specialised On Farm Advice (SOFA) visits for support in areas beyond our own team’s expertise.”
Dr. Cooke explained cover crops are invaluable for preventing soil damage during the wetter months, which is key to maximising future crop productivity and water quality: “The most beneficial cover crop mix for each individual field will depend on the soil type, nutrient levels and any pest or disease that may be present.
“For example, biofumigant species, such as Brown or Indian mustard and radish, can help control soil-borne pathogens, while deep-rooting species, such as radish, can scavenge nitrogen and retain it for use by subsequent crops.”
The main STEPS match funding is available to farmers in priority catchments to address issues such as nitrates reaching watercourses and help to keep our rivers healthy.
For more information and full eligibility criteria visit www.stwater.co.uk/steps