Companion Cropping

OSR

What is companion cropping?

Companion crops are a range of crop species which are planted alongside the planned cash crop either before or at planting to help aid crop establishment by giving some protection from pests, increasing beneficial predatory insects and improving soil health.

In recent years it has become a popular method of mitigating the damage caused to oilseed rape crops by cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB). Using the right species of companion crop, either before or at planting, offers protection against CSFB while encouraging crop establishment. Plus, with the additional benefit of both public and private funding options available for companion crops now, it is now a technique that has certainly moved to the mainstream.


OSR Companion CropWhat species should you use in an OSR companion crop?


The most commonly used companion crops in OSR are:

  • Common buckwheat
  • Tataricum buckwheat
  • Berseem clover
  • Fenugreek.

These can be used both in a mixture or as a straight. 

 

 

What benefits do these species bring?
Berseem clover Fenugreek Buckwheat Tataricum buckwheat

Why?

Provides valuable crop nutrition benefits.

 

How?

As a legume species it will start fixing nitrogen within 9 weeks of planting.

It also decomposes quickly in the spring, releasing nutrients to the crop.

 

Why?

Disguises the oilseed rape crop from CSFB.


How?

It produces a distinctive scent that masks the plant volatiles that CSFB uses to identify oilseed rape.

 

Why?

Attracts beneficial insects and provides crop nutrition benefits.


How?

Provides pollen and nectar that attracts insects such as parasitic wasps which feed on CSFB larvae. 

It is killed off by frost and as it decomposes it mobilises phsophate in the soil.

 

Why?

Provides a canopy to shelter emerging oilseed rape plants.


How?

Flowering later than standard buckwheat, it produces more biomass to help create a denser canopy.

 

Companion crop options from Kings

Our range of compantion crops has been developed to provide the best combined benefits of all four species. You can find our available mixtures below.

Mixture name Berseem clover Fenugreek Buckwheat Tataricum buckwheat Pack size

K12 Companion Crop Mix 1

ü ü ü   3ha

K16 Companion Crop Mix 2

ü ü     3ha

K18 Companion Crop Mix 3

ü   ü   3ha

K86 Companion Crop Mix 4

ü ü   ü 3ha

K91 Companion Crop Mix 5

ü     ü 3ha

K113 Companion Crop Mix 6

    ü ü 2ha

K127 Companion Crop Mix 7

  ü ü   1ha

 

How and where should you plant companion crops?

  • Best practice is to establish ahead of the oilseed rape crop being planted, early establishment is key.
  • For many, the best method is to broadcast the companion crop mixture into a standing crop ahead of harvest or spread it onto the stubble before drilling.
  • Alternatively, you can drill it at the same time as drilling oilseed rape. We do not advocate mixing your companion crop and OSR seed and drilling them together as without the necessary experience and care, sown mixture compositions can be very variable.
  • If you have a drill with additional seed hoppers, this will allow you to look at sowing a range of seeds at different depths and rates simultaneously.

 

How should you destroy companion crops?

  • Many of the plant species used within companion crop mixtures are frost sensitive.
  • If there's a decent ground frost, buckwheat will slowly deteriorate while releasing stored nutrient back to the OSR crop with no intervention required.
  • Berseem clover and fenugreek can be set back by frost but your usual winter herbicide regime will see them cleaned up in good order.

 

Get in touch

For further details, talk to your Frontier farm trader, agronomist or Kings advisor. Alternatively, you can get in touch with our team via phone, email or by filling out a contact form on our website. Contact us here.

 

 

 

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