Stop the pigeon

Back in August we drilled four fields of rape, all with a companion crop mix of one sort or another. For my money the most interesting is where we planted a mixture of lucerne, buckwheat and fenugreek; the lucerne is planned to stay as an understory in the following crops that will supply some “free” nitrogen. This particular field is looking good, the lucerne seems to have established well.

Left: October 16th | Right: February 2nd

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. One of the other fields had a mix of vetch, buckwheat and lentils. You can see the results above – it’s looked great all year. Incidentally, this field was drilled without neonic seed dressing, and although it was “hammered” by flea beetle in September we left 25% unsprayed, and the result is the lefthand picture above.

Anyway, there are a couple of hectares at the end of the field that are a trial without companion cropping (OK so I ran out of seed early) and today I went down to take a look. It’s an incredible result, and one I hadn’t anticipated at all.IMG_6235IMG_6237IMG_6238

So spectacular is it that I’ve had to post three (ok, four) photos. On the left is the companion cropped, where only the vetch has really survived the winter, and on the right is plain. What’s amazing is that the plain rape has been hammered by pigeons, and they (literally) haven’t touched the companioned bit.

One of the theoretical benefits of companion crops has always been how they could confuse or distract pests, but only in the context of slugs or insects – I’ve certainly never heard of a pigeon effect. Long may it continue – who likes gas guns, flags etc etc; they don’t even work anyway.

I was even so excited I made a video, for the first and perhaps last time. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending in your viewpoint, it was too windy and so most of what I said was lost. But still, the effect is obvious. Enjoy.

5 thoughts on “Stop the pigeon

  1. Fantastic result ! Certainly when we looked at companion cropping en French pre Xmas we were very impressed with their mixes and the effect on rape growth. Are we seeing the benefit of non Mycorrhizal specie ie rape interacting with AM species maybe. ?

  2. Have other fields of OSR and companion crops been eaten by pigeons or been left alone? Do you have the cost of establishment of the companion crops & OSR over the price of just OSR? Thanks.

    • Other fields have had pigeon damage, but they did not contain a vetch companion, which is potentially important as the vetch grew much bigger than any other companion species. Price per hectare varied from £18.92 to £61.59 depending on which species were used.

      • Thanks for the speedy reply. Enjoying the blogs!! Looks as if the companion crops are a no brainer,a neighbour has drilled some fields of OSR with companions so will be interesting to watch, especially if we have a cold spring like last year.

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