CS05: Legume intercrops for forage or biomass

For both wholecrop silage production and anaerobic digestion feed there is a need for high biomass production in essentially low input systems. Quality specifications must be achieved and over the whole crop cycle resource use efficiency must be optimised. Crop diversity can be exploited to achieve these aims as well as designed species mixtures which offer stability, resilience and resource-use efficiency. In a low input context, their ability to reduce yield loss through disease control as well as effective weed competition are particularly beneficial.


The challenge is to find optimal combinations of species that include legumes that are able to confer their benefits within the wholecrop truncated growth period. A further challenge is matching the agronomic treatments of different species. Preliminary work has indicated that winter peas in particular are able to do this very effectively in under reduced fertiliser conditions.


We will evaluate further trials to investigate the use of other legume-based species mixtures, their impact on biomass yield and quality and benefits to other crops in the rotation cycle. Further, we will investigate the potential issues for different crop uses and implications for different sustainable farming system such as zero tillage.

More information:

Type of legumes: Clover, Faba bean, Forages

Type of farming system: Arable, conventional, Integrated/intercropped


Case Study Leader: James Hutton Institute, UK

Contact person: : Adrian C. Newton, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA,
Scotland UK