The new SFI schemes are prompting many conversations with our growers, especially around herbal leys and particularly SAM 3. Essentially, the new name for GS4 within the older Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
There are many mixtures available in the marketplace for growers to choose from that will be compliant with the scheme’s protocol. But it is not until you really pay attention to these mixtures and investigate what makes up their contents, that you see how different they all are.
A grower could end up with a herbal ley that grows just enough to require a topper over it once a year, or a herbal ley that will perform closer to the outputs of a conventional ley.
A frequent question from growers that are looking to sow a SAM3/GS4 herbal ley in place of a conventional grass ley is; can I maintain production whilst qualifying for the SFI scheme’s intentions, and be able to claim a payment?
In short, herbal leys simply will not match a top performing ley for yield or quality, but we know that we can get close with our mixtures.
Conventional grass mixtures have been designed and tested over many years using varieties that have been bred and cultivated over decades, such as our Circle leys, that have been true to their concept since 1947.
The best performing leys use varieties that complement and will grow together, in harmony. Scheme compliant mixtures simply do not have the ability to compete, whichever way you cut it – wildflowers and herbs will not yield, harmonise, or have the feed value in comparison with modern clovers and ryegrass.
You also have to factor in the animal’s desire to eat what is in front of it and whilst herbs sound ideal, too much is overpowering, and an animal will spend more energy looking for the alternative.
From our experience with CSS and lessons we have learnt, Nickerson and Limagrain have looked to get as close as we can with the mixtures.
First off, we use only seed of the highest quality and vigour and then design a herbal ley with the same approach as a conventional ley. Indeed, as for our SAM 3/GS4 mixtures we start with using one of our conventional leys as a base and remove/add in constituents to make it compliant.
We can also tailor a mixture to include more higher yielding and quality grasses and clovers and less productive legume types, herbs and wildflowers that will offer least in terms of production. We therefore offer different mixtures with different percentages of ryegrass and clover; all of which are compliant with the scheme but will suit growers’ requirements accordingly.
This year, I have been working with a grower, where we have been growing our multispecies 75 as seen in the pictures below.
These photos were taken on the 3rd of August, and this was its 4th cut of the year already and two grazes. Yields were to a point of causing an issue of what to do with the excess! Quality is also very high.
So, can you have your herbal cake and eat it? Well, talk to your local Nickerson Seed Specialist to find out…