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.
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.
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.